A top-class tale of grit and determination

12. error history: The inspiring story of an IPS officer who failed class 12 exams, did odd jobs, slept only three hours every night and started over four times to clear the UPSC exams.

12. misjudgment: Clearing the coveted Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams is not for the weak either in academics or conviction. This makes the story of Manoj Kumar Sharma (Vikrant Massey) extraordinary. The boy from a village in Chambal, Madhya Pradesh, flunks his 12th exam after new DPS Dushyant Singh (Priyanshu Chatterjee) stops the teachers from allowing students to cheat in the ‘borad’ exams. Manoj clears the third division the following year and reaches Delhi to appear for the Civil Services exam. He has the fire but not the academic acumen to pull it off, so much so that he is not even aware that there is such thing as UPSC or IPS profile. The story follows Manoj and how he juggles small jobs to survive while realizing his dream with the support of his mentor (Anshumaan Pushkar), friends and girlfriend Shraddha Joshi (Medha Shankar).

Every track in the film is a story in itself – from Manoj’s misguided youth, not knowing right from wrong to his struggles and restarting from scratch every time. The viewer feels involved in Manoj’s success or failure. As the tension rises when he goes to the last leg (the interview), quiet pauses and the ambient sound also make you hold your breath.

The narrative flows easily as it harkens back to legends like APJ Kalam and BR Ambedkar’s call to his followers: ‘Educate, agitate, organize.’ The film also subtly touches on why corrupt politicians want the youth to remain unintelligent – so they can be oppressed and ruled.

Vikrant Massey handles a demanding role and character arc with great confidence. He does the character justice at every turn – whether he’s agitated, helpless or determined to turn the tide in his favor. Priyanshu Chatterjee shines in his brief role as a DCP whose honesty is his bravery. His skill as a performer is evident in the scene where he meets Manoj as his superior. His reaction is a mixture of respect for a senior and pride in inspiring a young man to choose the right path. As Manoj’s parents, Geeta Agrawal Sharma and Harish Khanna deserve mention for their nuanced performances.

’12th Fail’ is top-notch and a must-watch that will leave you impressed and inspired through almost every scene of its 147 minutes. Full marks to Chopra for making sure he gets the best out of every character in the film.

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