12th Fail Review | An All-Heart Motivational Drama With a Solid Emotional Core

A timely update to templates can always make them work for the audience if the emotions get translated through good writing and performances. 12th Fail, the new movie by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, is a testament to that. Chopra has taken a very cheesy and predictable drama that shows us the journey of an underdog. Yet, he succeeds in etching the significant moments in that journey with clarity and nuances to make it that hearty film that puts a smile on your face.

Manoj Kumar Sharma belongs to a village in the Chambal district. His school teachers used to help the students pass exams by promoting cheating, and for someone like Manoj, who was raised in such a setup, IAS, IPS, etc., were not a dream. But when his father got suspended from his job for being honest, and he saw the power of a DSP who arrested the school principal for supporting malpractice, the truth seeker in Manoj found the confidence to pursue UPSC. How a man from such a background with no idea about how it is done manages to survive the most brutal race is what we see in 12th Fail.

As I already said, there is no unpredictability here that will give a twist to the tale. A man with less exposure comes to Delhi to prepare for the Civil Service examination, and after many heartbreaks and attempts, he manages to crack the UPSC. This is a plotline you all could guess by seeing the trailer or poster of this movie. But where Vidhu Vinod Chopra has broken the cliches is in creating moments in that story. How he has established Manoj’s family and his village at the beginning of the movie is pretty interesting. He addresses the bizarreness of that village’s working humorously. Then, there is this moment of inspiration through the character of DSP. The film is actually a series of such typical moments in an underdog story. But the difference is in the way the movie reaches those scenes.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra uses unpredictability differently. There is a scene where we see the police who have arrested Manoj and his brother asking Manoj to bring his grandfather’s gun. Just when we think a naive Manoj would do that, we see the signs of his intelligence and diligence. In the final interview, when he gives this dramatic speech about being a lamp to someone else, he is not met with a standing ovation. Structurally, the movie is a cliche, but inside each of those moments that makes the structure strong, the presentation of the effort behind the journey is palpable. The cinematography by Rangarajan Ramabadran mostly has that warm tone, representing the character’s struggle. Whenver he is struggling, when he is in his village, when he is working in that mill, the visuals have that desertish look. As the story leans towards a sense of hope, a little bit of blue starts to pop up in the frame, and once the character is attending that final interview, the visual aesthetic is totally different.

Vikrant Massey is a terrific talent, and in 12th Fail as Manoj Kumar Sharma, he just blows your mind with his rooted performance. The earnestness, insecurity, ego, and determination of the character are a mixture that makes Manoj so real, and Massey depicts those shades of that character so wonderfully. Medha Shankar, as the love interest of Manoj, Shraddha, was fine in her character. Anant V Joshi was memorable as the narrator/friend of Manoj. And I loved the performance of Anshumaan Pushkar as Gauri Bhaiyya, who was like the mix of Sandeep Bhaiyya and SK from Aspirants. Priyanshu Chatterjee as DSP, Geeta Aggarwal Sharma as the mother (one more memorable performance after OMG 2), Harish Khanna as the honest father, and Sarita Joshi as the grandmother were all really good in their roles.

The TVF original Aspirants is one series that will definitely come to the minds of many while they watch this movie. While the filmy tonality is similar in both creations, I would say the area of focus is very different for both. While Aspirants was more about the journey within that span of four attempts and things happening after that, 12th Fail has a broader canvas depicting this unimaginable journey of a nobody. The emotional core of the movie is so strong because of the detailing given to every moment of that character’s journey. And I would say it will strike a chord with everyone who had at one point taken that risk of choosing a less traveled path solely based on self-belief and the faith people around them showed in them.

Final Thoughts

The emotional core of the movie is so strong because of the detailing given to every moment of that character's journey.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.