12th Fail, as the title suggests, is a no-nonsense, highly gripping, and heartwarming real-life story of a student from a Hindi medium school in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh who failed his Class XII exams, and yet, stays the course, persevering through battles and failed attempts, to finally crack the coveted UPSC examination, and become an IPS officer.
Vikrant Massey, as the student Manoj Kumar Sharma, has delivered a compelling performance that speaks straight to the viewers. The film beautifully captures the journey of a determined, ambitious, and sharp student from the unforgiving wilds of the Chambal to the national capital’s UPSC building, and in the process, fills the viewers with overwhelming emotions of hope and belief. How can anyone in such challenging circumstances be so hopeful of a bright future? More so, how does a sixteen-year-old emerge from the circumstances that cripple him to rise to the zenith and elevate his family's social strata forever? The answer to the question is what the film is all about.
The supporting cast too, is equally believeable and apt—Medha Shankar as Manoj's supportive girlfriend, Anantvijay Joshi as his friend, and Anshumaan Pushkar as a peer—bringing in a much-needed authenticity and genuineness to their characters, making the screenplay so much more enriching.
As producer-director Vidhu Vinod Chopra celebrates his 45th year in Bollywood, 12th Fail clearly stands out as one of his most promising projects till date; one which will remain evergreen no matter the year or the era in which one watches it. Known for some of the biggest blockbusters, including Kareeb, starring Bobby Deol and Shabana, this one adds yet another feather to Chopra's streak of films with a strong sense of rootedness and realism.
The music is hummable and remains with you long after you have watched the film. All those who have ever been to Delhi's Mukherjee Nagar, which is known to be a hub of IAS aspirants, know the kind of grind one goes through while preparing for the Indian civil services. Students coming from across the country to Delhi, living on rent, sharing two rooms with six others, making schedules and timetables, and solving mock tests, all in the hope of cracking the prelims and then the mains. Many such students flunk the interview only to restart the process again another year. These are stories that will resonate with many - those who made it, but especially more so with those who didn't.
This story of struggle is also one of hope, and that, in itself, is reason enough to watch this film.
Movie: 12th Fail
Directed by: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Cast: Vikrant Massey, Medha Shankar, Anantvijay Joshi, Anshumaan Pushkar, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Geeta Agarwal Sharma, Harish Khanna, Vikas Divyakirti
Rating: 3.5 stars