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A Motivational Film that holds out hope & inspires resilience

 Dr Ramandeep Mahal reviews '12th Fail'

Recently, I saw this inspirational film called 12th Fail. I experienced a wide variety of emotions after watching this movie, including love, grief, passion, struggle, and finally triumph. Vidhu Vinod Chopra has again shown to the younger generation that he is India’s true director; with his past films, such as Khamosh and Parinda, that are truly remarkable and great, 12th Fail is another feather in his cap. Vikrant Massey is Manoj Kumar Sharma, a young IPS aspirant who wants to do big things in life, but he has nary a clue how to start. He encounters an honest police officer who makes him want to do something with his life. He leaves Chambal and ends up in Delhi preparing for the UPSC exam. Every complication in life possible, lands up in this man’s life. The big question is- will he make it?


Adapted from a book of the same name by Anurag Pathak, 12th Fail is a real-life story of IPS officer Manoj Kumar Sharma and his IRS officer wife Shradha Joshi. The degree of embellishment doesn’t matter here, as a coaching center teacher played by Vikas Divyakirti explains in this film ‘the diwali wala rocket and the NASA wala rocket’, the principal is same. This might be Vikrant Massey’s most challenging performance till date. He adds a multitude of nuances to his persona at every turn. He doesn’t understand that it is wrong to cheat in school as a teenager. He is a hard-working UPSC student who doesn’t mind sleeping for three hours each night to make sure he has enough time to study and do menial tasks to survive. The actor is undoubtedly very polished, careful and capable of telling the story. However, the film makes the bizarre choice of using Anant V Joshi’s voice over from the first scene to the end, as we see the movie unfolds, watering down the impact of the tale. Hearing ‘Manoj bahut khush tha, aaj pehli baar kisi ladki ne uska naam poocha tha’ (Manoj was very happy today as for the first time a girl wanted to know his name) is redundant to the point of making the experience quite tedious. This voiceover appears multiple times explaining the passage of time. One sees Manoj’s younger sister getting older, an indication that he has been away from his village for many years. No explanations are required here so a voiceover becomes completely redundant.


Anant Joshi is a good actor, we enjoyed him in Kathal, but in this film where he plays bestie Pandey, he overpowers everyone with his dialogues. He finds Manoj when the latter has lost everything in a theft and he becomes his benefactor and savior but sadly unable to save himself, finding solace in alcohol. Pandey and Manoj meet a local tutor called Gauri Bhaiya (played by Anshuman Pushkar) who gives them free coaching classes but not before sharing his entire life story in the same scene. The characters are sketched in shades of black and white with very little grey in-between. So, cops are either corrupt or wonderful. Coaching managers are cartoonish, evil or angelic. The love story where Medha Shankar appears as Manoj’s love interest Shradha is kind of rushed in conveniently. 


A colleague believes that the movie belongs to both Shradha and Manoj, but the emphasis is on Manoj. Be that as it may, the locations were perfect, quite relatable to the subject of the movie. Cinematographer Rangarajan Ramabadran captures life-like moments amid New Delhi's prosaic Mukherjee Nagar and parched Chambal. Shantanu Moitra’s music is spot-on, particularly the emotive and evocative background soundtrack. The film makes excellent use of both sound and stillness, which enhances the narrative. What makes this movie truly remarkable is self-discovery, resilience and the triumph of the human spirit during tough times. For individuals who feel as though they have lost everything in life, 12th Fail is a fantastic option. It is so particularly for students as it will motivate them to #RESTART (as mentioned in the beginning of the film). It's the type of film that forces one to reflect about life and how to overcome obstacles.


I would rate this film an outstanding 9.5 out of 10 since it has an incredible plot, compelling characters, poignant music, gorgeous scenery, and superb performance. Overall, the film directed, produced and written by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, is a resounding success.  A Big thumbs up.


Dr. Ramandeep Mahal is currently working as an Assistant Professor of English at Guru Nanak Khalsa College Yamunanagar. She received her Doctorate degree from Maharishi Markandeshwar Mullana Ambala in 2018. Her research interests include Anglo-American Literature, Indian Writing in English, African Literature. She is the author of more than twenty research papers.

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