12th Fail review: This heart-rendering hopeful hug is diligent not calculated in delivering its message

Sakshi Sharma
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12th Fail review

12th Fail review

12th Fail review: Vikrant Massey and experiential filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra highlight the class divide and make real-life struggles filled with roadblocks look cinematic yet inspirational! 

It is quite a coincidence that within the same week, just a few days apart, two pieces of content based on UPSC were released. As TVF brings back its beloved show Aspirants second installment on OTT,  Vidhu Vinod Chopra, after a long time, comes with 12th Fail in theatres. Now if you think the syllabus is the same how different could the result be? Then let me quote a teacher from the film who talks about the principle of Diwali Rocket and Space Rocket being the same, but what matters is the value of each. If Aspirants offers the UPSC examination, the toughest to crack as a life-learning course, then the 12th Fail extends this idea further and adds layers of the cultural and political reality of India to it, telling you that anyone, no matter what class you are coming from, can aspire to do UPSC! 

Adapted from the book of the same name by Anurag Pathak, based on the life of IPS officer Manoj Kumar Sharma and his wife, IRS officer Shraddha Joshi, the film is an experiential unfolding of an underdog saga that isn't too calculated or trying to fit a pattern. Here is a filmmaker who comes with 45 years of experience who has an original voice that is focused and has confidence in it as well as in his not-too-famous but known cast. He weaves the story of a young boy, Manoj, from Chambal, a place known for dacoits, who was inspired to be an honest person serving his nation with so much heart that his story feels personal as we all wait to hear and celebrate his triumphant phone call by the end. 

The film follows the myth of Muphy's law, which states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, with an added layer of an optimistic attitude of restarting every time you hit ground zero. The use of this narrative tool to tell a heartening story that produces a lump in your throat every time Manoj falls and smiles on your face when he overcomes it just by getting up. He fails the 12th class as his plan to cheat fails because of an honest DSP, so he studies hard to pass on his own; the only money given to him by his grandmother, who saved her pension money for years gets stolen, his plans for PCS fails as well, so he moves to do UPSC, he fails in his various attempts at UPSC for reasons like confusing terrorism with tourism in qualifying exams, but each time he restarts, you get inspired by his determination. 

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When a bogged-down satyvaadi father loses hope in his fight for justice and realises that lower-class people like him don't win, Manoj counters him with that we don't give up also. That constant smile on Massey's face whether he has to do menial jobs like work in a library, clean toilets or run an atta chakki for 15 hours or so and then study with just 3 hours of sleep blows you. But it's not like the film loses sight of ground reality (Manoj's lower class) in the wake of just being optimistic. His struggle for basic amenities and education like a place to live or learning English, makes you very conscious of your own privileges. His breakdown, rejection, getting betrayed, failure, all of it hits home as well.

It's the purity with which the film is treated that its emotional quotient soars high. Whether it is the idea of involving real people as cast or location as Mukherjee Nagar, real sounds as BGM where a dog's howling metaphors the stomach growls of Manoj who hasn't eaten since days, or the camera tricks of handheld shots, shifting focus, finding its protagonist in the crowd, or amazing edit cuts make it an experiential watch. There isn't a doubt about how malleable Vikrant Massey is as an actor but with Manoj, here is another proof of how skillful he is in his craft. The scene with his mother where both of them are crying together or his last fall down on the ground with happiness at his result makes you lose it as well. Even Medha Shankar as fragile but strong Shraddha Joshi and the rest of the cast are the perfect support he needs. 

For me personally, the film draws from 3 idiots and Aspirants both. As an underachieving bestie Pandey (Anant V Joshi) has a mixed personality of both Raju and Frahaan. Just like Farhaan, he wants to do something other than UPSC and doesn't have the guts to say this to his father. But just like Raju, he is also unable to crack the examinations and the sutardhar of the story, which is a little bit troubling as he points out the obvious. Gauri Bhaiyya (Anshumaan Pushkar) is like Sandeep Bhaiyya whose aspirations never convert but he offers to be that beacon of hope for others. 

It might not be a 3 Idiots or Munnabhai MBBS where the entire film is etched in your mind but it definitely moves something within you. It borrows from its protagonist's honesty and truthfully pays tribute to all those in the police force or government officers who fulfill their duty with earnestness. It leaves you with the idea that life is all about restarting in the wake of roadblocks because if a boy hailing from Chambal, surrounded by troubles on all sides, still could find a path why couldn't you? It is awe-inspiring, heartfelt, real, and more than anything in this time of hopelessness and distrust something very much we need! 

12th Fail is running at the theatres near you! 

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Vikrant Massey Vidhu Vinod Chopra Aspirants 12th Fail IPS Manoj Kumar Sharma