A bunch of recent films has explored the connection between getting the right kind of schooling and moving up the social scale. They include Hindi Medium and its sequel Angrezi Medium and Super 30. Prakash Jha’s latest movie broadly follows the same curriculum but offers a less glamorous and more plausible view of dreams turning into reality.

Pareeksha, which is being streamed on Zee5, lays out the obstacles faced by a Ranchi rickshaw puller in giving his only son the best possible education. Buchi (Adil Hussain) and his wife Radhika (Priyanka Bose) work hard to ensure that Bulbul (Shivam Jha) will not end up like them. Bulbul (Shubham Jha) is far more intelligent and committed than his classmates at the government school where he studies. His father frets that Bulbul won’t get anywhere despite good grades. Education is the only way to get out of this hell, Buchi observes.

His “Buchi Express” ferries affluent children to Sapphire, a Central Board of Secondary Education school. Buchi decides that Bulbul will spend the tenth grade in this elite institution – even if it means lying and cheating and stea;omg.

Radhika, who works in a steel utensil manufacturing unit, wonders where the money is coming from. Neighbours in their Ambedkar Nagar settlement gossip that Buchi is over-reaching himself – can a horse rider sit in an aeroplane?

A much-needed booster shot is provided by Kailash (Sanjay Suri), a high-ranking police officer who gives Bulbul coaching lessons. Kailash, this movie’s face of humane policing, is credited by politicians for Bulbul’s progress, but Jha’s screenplay makes it clear that the teenager’s achievements are entirely his own.

Packed with solid and credible performances all around, including from minor characters, Pareeksha makes its points without flourishes. The man who pushes Buchi into thievery is portrayed sympathetically, and the actual villains lurk in the corridors of the Sapphire school, waiting to deny Bulbul his glory. Simply and clearly narrated, the 102-minute Pareeksha is among the filmmaker’s more effective social message dramas – a feel-good film that actually has feeling.

Pareeksha (2020).

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