12th Fail: Vidhu Vinod Chopra does a Rajkumar Hirani!

Vikrant Massey in 12th Fail. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

For starters, this is a late review, as I missed the press screening and there was limited access to suitable screens and shows in the first three days. But, thanks to word-of-mouth, the film has begun to do better on the lower side, and I was able to catch up with it five days after its release.

The second point is that usually producer-director and co-writer Vidhu Vinod Chopra enters dark zones (Parinda, Mission Kashmir, Eklavya and more) as a filmmaker, but this time he actually moves into the zone of his protégé, Rajkumar Hirani, who has given him his banner’s biggest hits in a row—the Munna Bhai franchise,3 Idiots and PK—all feel-good aspiration-based movies with a streak of idealism.

Their association, which petered off due to, ironically, commercial compulsions, becomes the clear inspiration for Chopra to deliver his best work as a mainstream filmmaker. How even a student who fails in the career-wise-considered-crucial 12th standard exams can fulfill his ambition with dogged resolution is proved by this wholesome small delight.

Manoj Kumar Sharma (Vikrant Massey) is the idealistic guy, easily inspired by idealistic people. When DSP Dushyant Singh (Priyanshu Chatterjee) helps him out in a situation, he decides that he wants to be an upright, honest police officer like him.

Hailing from a poor village family, he soon leaves for Gwalior with his grandmother (Sarita Joshi)’s blessings as she affectionately hands over her carefully preserved savings to him for qualifying for the exams needed. He promises her that he will return only in uniform. Manoj’s father, another upright person, has also suffered because of the corrupt village mukhiya (head) and has left the family home to make his own standing in life.

In Gwalior, however, Manoj is robbed of his suitcase containing the money. Another aspirant for the IPS (Indian Police Service), Pritam (Anant Joshi), encounters him and decides to guide and help Manoj. He takes him to Delhi for a superior IPS exam and they begin their efforts at studying for the grueling tests, from the results of which only 25 to 30 candidates qualify out of a five-figure number of entrants!

The rest of the film is about how Manoj struggles with rare perseverance, earning money with menial jobs while studying. His new guiding force is Gauri Bhaiyya (Anshuman Pushkar), an altruistic man who helps all such candidates, though he has never managed to pass the IPS himself, with crucial tips. ]

En route, Manoj encounters Shraddha (Medha Shankar), a girl from a well-to-do family who wants to join the IAS (Indian Administrative Service), an equally tough exam. Subdued romance blooms but Manoj is single-minded enough to not be distracted from his main focus.

Heartwarming incidents abound in this film, and though there could have been some trimming, especially at the end, one has to admit that everything shown is necessary and, at best, the film could have been shorter only by about 10 to 15 minutes. The fact that the film is inspired by a real Manoj Sharma (and many other stories, as its publicity claims) helps in maintaining the relatable factor. Several sequences, like the final interview and Manoj’s resistance to lie about his academic past, the reconciliation after a spat (why that happens must be watched) between Pritam and Manoj, or the sequences between Shraddha and him stand out for their low-key emotional voltage.

Vikrant Massey, as Manoj, stuns with a terrific turn as the de-glam but relentlessly determined village lad. Anshuman Pushkar towers as Gauri Bhaiyya and I cannot imagine any other artistes in his role as well as Manoj’s. Anant Joshi is brilliant as the well-meaning Pritam, who loses his cool when he does not make the last attempt.

Priyanshu Chatterjee as the honest DSP and Medha Shankar as Shraddha respectively are quietly effective. Gauri Aggarwal Sharma, Harish Khanna, Perry Chhabra and Sanjay Bishnoi as Manoj’s family members are extremely good. Sarita Joshi as his grandmother is brilliant in a brief role, and Abhishek Sengupta as Gauri’s friend Tutul also makes a mark.

The cinematography (Rangarajan Ramabadran) is excellent and so also the VFX. The color tone of the film exactly as needed in both the village and towns besides dusty Delhi. Shantanu Moitra’s background score is subtle and his only song, Bolo na, is quite melodious. Raftaar is nowhere as raucous as is his norm in the meaningful Restart song that he has composed and sung and also penned with Swanand Kirkire.

The highlight of this modest film is its script and, sadly in these days, the film proves that content is only supposed to be king but isn’t so necessarily. The film nevertheless actually drew applause from a major chunk of the audience (less than 30 souls in the prime-time show I went for) at the climax—something that we don’t get to see in many films.

That, I think, says it all. The movie might have been a hit with a major star like Ranbir Kapoor as Manoj, but would have lost its gritty and vital relatable quotient. As things stand, I can only give a thumbs-up to this small and honest film.

Rating: ****

Zee Studios and Vinod Chopra Productions’ 12th Fail  Produced and directed by: Vidhu Vinod Chopra  Written by: Anurag Pathak, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Jaskunwar Kohli    & Aayush Saxena  Music: Shantanu Moitra & Raftaar Starring: Vikrant Massey, Medha Shankar, Anshuman Pushkar, Anant Joshi, Geeta Aggarwal Sharma, Harish Khanna, Sarita Joshi, Sanjay Bishnoi, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Perry Chhabra, Triaksh Chhabra, Darius Chinoy, Geeta Aggarwal Sharma, Vikas Divyakirti, Vijay Kumar Dogra, Abhishek Sengupta & others




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here