Sometimes, it's the underdog story that strikes the right chord, and writer-director Vidhu Vinod Chopra brings his mastery into play in his latest outing, 12th Fail. Based on the novel of the same name by Anurag Pathak, the film chronicles the journey of Manoj Kumar Sharma, a 12th drop out from Chambal, who sets out to prepare for the tough UPSC exam.
Chopra skillfully uses this inspiring and exciting tale as his canvas, painting it with a range of emotions - pain, anger, failure, victory, helplessness, and confidence. Starring Vikrant Massey as Manoj, the film presents the scenario as raw and real as possible, without sugarcoating anything. It resonates with the thousands of students who year after year prepare and appear for the UPSC exam, showcasing their determination and resilience.
One aspect that the film addresses is the loopholes in our education system. It sheds light on a school in Chambal where cheating in board exams is encouraged, as passing 12th standard is seen as the only way for students to secure jobs and support their families. When DSP Dushyant Singh puts an end to the cheating, it sparks a desire in Manoj to follow the right path. However, when the DSP is transferred, the school reverts to its usual practices, except for Manoj, who is content with his third division.
The film takes us on Manoj's journey as he moves to Gwalior for UPSC coaching and eventually finds himself in the chaotic Mukherjee Nagar area in Delhi, known for its concentration of aspiring UPSC students. Alongside his girlfriend Shraddha Joshi, played by Medha Shankar, Manoj faces countless hurdles and daily challenges in pursuit of his dream.
Vikrant Massey delivers a brilliant performance, undoubtedly his career best so far. He effortlessly portrays the multifaceted character of Manoj, capturing his innocence as a teenager and his determination as a struggling UPSC student. Massey breathes life into Manoj, leaving no room for any complaints.
At a runtime of 147 minutes, 12th Fail maintains its engaging pace without becoming boring or preachy. Chopra ensures that every subplot and track has its own story, seamlessly woven into the screenplay. From Manoj's friend Pandey to his mentor Gauri bhaiya, played by Anshuman Pushkar, each character has their own unique narrative, told with finesse.
Chopra's dialogues, while simplistic, pack a punch and leave a lasting impact. He skillfully captures the vulnerabilities of students who face failures and setbacks, while also shedding light on the corrupt system that hinders their education. Yet, amidst all this, the film preserves its essence as a pure and honest tale of determination and conviction.
12th Fail is not only a must-watch for its portrayal of the hardships and emotions experienced by UPSC students but also for its commentary on the flaws in our education system. Similar to Chopra's previous hit, 3 Idiots, the film shines a light on the need for change and reform.