12th Fail Review: Vikrant Massey delivers a superlative | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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12th Fail Review: Vikrant Massey delivers a superlative act in this pure and honest tale of success and failure

Oct 26, 2023 02:10 PM IST

12th Fail Review: Vikrant Massey delivers his career best performance so far in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's new film about UPSC aspirants.

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, it chronicles the journey of Manoj Kumar Sharma from Chambal, who despite being a 12th drop out sets out to prepare for the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) exam, considered one of the toughest.

12th Fail: Vikrant Massey plays the lead in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's film.
12th Fail: Vikrant Massey plays the lead in Vidhu Vinod Chopra's film.

Chopra uses this inspiring and exciting tale as his canvas and paints it with several emotions - of pain, anger, failure, victory, helplessness and confidence. Starring Vikrant Massey as Manoj, who's shown to have taken up low-paying jobs at a tea stall, then at an aata chakki and in between he even cleaned toilets, 12th Fail doesn't sugarcoat anything and presents the scenario as raw and real as possible. And it surely will resonate with thousands and lakhs of students who prepare and appear for the UPSC exam year after year - while a few make it, others 'restart' and give it another shot. Chopra tells us about the restart funda for UPSC aspirants much early on in the film, and sticks to it almost throughout, till the very end, weaving it subtly at various stages in the film.

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12th Fail also takes on the loopholes of our education system where a school in Chambal openly makes the kids cheat in their board exams because only if they clear 12th standard, can they get some jobs and earn for their families. One day, when DSP Dushyant Singh (Priyanshu Chatterjee), in a small yet impactful role, lands at the school and stops kids from cheating, that's when Manoj (Massey) realises that this is the path he wishes to follow. But the next year, DSP is transferred, and school is back to implementing the usual practice and everyone passes with first division except Manoj who is happy with his third division. He lands in Gwalior for UPSC coaching, and eventually fate takes him to Delhi where he finds himself in the middle of a chaotic Mukherjee Nagar area, famous for being home to a million students who have come from all parts of the country to get that one spot in the UPSC. How Manoj, along with his girlfriend Shraddha Joshi (Medha Shankar), navigate this journey, daily hurdles is what 12th Fail focuses on.

Massey takes the cake for delivering a brilliant performance, easily his career best so far. At every step, he brings a myriad of shades to his character. As a teenager in school, he is oblivious to the fact that cheating is immoral. As a struggling UPSC student, he is full of grit and determination and doesn't mind sleeping three hours every night to ensure he has enough time to study and do petty jobs for survival. Massey owns up Manoj's character in all aspects that you'd expect and performs it to the word T leaving no scope of any complaints.

At 147 minutes, 12th Fail never stretches to a point that it gets boring or preachy. It keeps the tension, chaos, hustle and that pace intact, which make it an engaging watch. Chopra ensures that in every subplot or track he introduces, there's a story of its own and not at once, any of them look forced in the screenplay. Be it Manoj's friend Pandey, a government servant's son, or Manoj's mentor Gauri bhaiya (Anshuman Pushkar), who after failing to fulfil his dream of becoming an IPS, devotes his life to training others and getting them to restart in life - everyone has a story if their own, narrated with nuances.

Chopra has kept the dialogues simplistic, but they hit you hard and leave a lasting impact. He has effortlessly captured the vulnerabilities of the students who fail, fall and rise again. At the same time, Chopra has also touched upon, though briefly, the corrupt system that does not want the youth to be educated or reach position where they can be in power and would act as a hinderance. However, while doing all this, the film, at no point leaves its essence of being a pure and honest tale of determination and conviction.

12th Fail is a must watch to understand not only the hardships and emotions that UPSC students go through, but it also shed light on the overall education in our system, something that Chopra won hearts at with 3 Idiots.

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