Star Cast: Vikrant Massey, Medha Shankar, Anshuman Pushkar, Anant Joshi, Sam Mohan, and ensemble.
Director: Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
What’s Good: It is always fascinating how Vidhu Vinod Chopra makes the audience the leading part of his movies. What is even more intriguing is how Vikrant Massey surrenders himself to a point where you forget he is an actor enacting a part.
What’s Bad: The first half of the romantic angle takes us a bit away from the story but it serves a very good greater propose in the end compensating for the dip.
Loo Break: Google all the synonyms there are for No.
Watch or Not?: You must! Cinema that resonates with the gest and dedication of the people who have risen above the ashes and is made by a filmmaker who understands the nuances of a story, should never be missed.
Available On: In Theatres Near You!
Runtime: 147 Minutes.
Manoj Kumar Sharma (Vikrant), a young man from a small village in Chambal, dreams of becoming an IPS officer. But destiny has placed him even beyond the margin, and his constant attempts to come on the other side are going in vain. When he lands in Delhi after a tragedy, he fights hell to take the competitive exams and grinds for years until he one day becomes IPS Manoj Kumar Sharma!
12th Fail Movie Review: Script Analysis
Biopics may be the most uncomplicated flavor of the decade we are in with the Hindi cinema. A dramatic story of an individual not much is known about, some creative liberties, and a star playing him, a package that is lucrative, is released on the big screen to lure the audience. But how many times do they manage to speak to their audience? When Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Parinda, Love Story 1942) decides to make one, he makes sure that he never walks the stereotypical path and ends up making one of the most nuanced, political, personal, and brave movies of our times.
Written by Chopra and Jaskunwar Kohli, with Aayush Saxena credited as associate writer, and adapted from Anurag Pathak’s book 12th Fail, the movie is much more than just a biopic. Yes, it is about a boy from Chambal who fought his conditions to become an IPS office and is actually working as one as we speak, but for Chopra, this story is clearly not just about one individual, and he doesn’t want it to be about just him. He is instead having a conversation with his audience. He is welcoming you, the viewer, to join his world that has many people who, in a way, are serving his hero’s journey but also have their own. This is how a seasoned writer writes, and Chopra, after a quite underwhelming last movie (Shikara), proves he still has got the spark in him, and it dips but doesn’t fade.
12th Fail is set in the world of IPS aspirants, which can be tedious. You either give a chest-thumping melo dramatic narrative arc, or weave a story with intricate details. The writing team does the latter and shapes the movie in an exciting way. They plants seeds of situations that will bloom maybe minutes or hours later with a thud. For example, when you see the Grandmother not ready to let go of her pension money after giving it all to Manoj, and it getting stolen in the next scene, you are reminded of the times the Grandmother was so stubborn about that money. Or when the DSP who inspires Manoj to become an officer in the first place says, “Cheating bhulni padegi,” and the moment is concluded in the climax, it feels like we are rewarded.
The climax sequence is definitely one of the most fruitful ones in years. It is a celebration but also a reminder about what it takes to be someone who thinks out of the box, and the box is no less than a prison. Chopra’s voice is so political and brave that you can see him organically blend it into the narrative. 12th Fail doesn’t want to be just a celebration but a reminder that we are a long way to equality, and even longer to acceptance of the once left behind in the progress. When a character says, “Jab hum mein se koi ek IPS banega to hum sare bhed bakriyo ko to sab ko asha milegi,” you understand how important it is that everyone is represented equally.
When he shows how English has become a parameter to measure a person’s credibility to be at top positions, teachers helping children to copy in small towns, show how collapsed our education system was and how not much has changed, he is making a potent point. The stark contrast between how much cities have progressed and how they have left the less privileged behind. Chopra never shies away from showing it all and taking digs at the system with his dialogues. When a character says, “Are Bhai woh sarkar hain, woh kuch bhi kar sakti hain,” you know where this is coming from.
Yes, the final interview does feel a bit too dramatic for a movie that has played with subtle notes so far, but the way it breaks into a scene of victory, you forgive one mistake and cry with the man who has defeated his fate to win the world.
12th Fail Movie Review: Star Performance
Vikrant Massey knew this character would be mentioned in his filmography with golden words. A performance beyond any validation. He breathes Manoj Kumar Singh and doesn’t really try to mimic him, which turns out to be the best part of this story. As an actor, Massey deserves the sky after this performance because he is convincing as a boy sitting in a hut in Chambal, and also the boy sitting on the interview chair at the IPS interview. Everything in between is a showcase of impeccable talent. Even when his dialect flickers, he saves the day with his brilliant acting.
Medha Shankar is indeed a good actor who can say a lot with silence. Not many can. For a character that is a silent force behind Manoj, she has a very complex character at hand. What looks like a fragile person from the outside, is actually a very stubborn, intelligent, and headstrong girl who knows what she wants. Medha plays the part with so much earnestness.
Anant Vijay Joshi is an excellent addition to the cast and plays Pandey so well. The actor brings out the helplessness of his part, who doesn’t want to pursue IPS in the first place, very well. Last seen in Kathal, he is indeed an up-and-coming actor, and I want to see more of him in the coming years. Anshuman Pushkar feels like someone you know or want in your life. He plays that friend to the best of his capacity, and gives a character that stays with us beyond the movie.
12th Fail Movie Review: Direction, Music
Vidhu Vinod Chopra proves you can make an underdog story without really going the stereotypical way and sticking to the source material. It is a prime example of pure filmmaking with no complex structure, but still so intriguing that you will definitely cry in the end. Chopra knows what button he needs to press as the director, so you feel a certain way. The best part about it is that he doesn’t force you to come his way, but you organically follow him.
DOP Rangarajan Ramabadran helps him achieve a cinematic dream with his camera. Every frame is so thought about that you can see why the camera is set a certain way. A lot of handheld shots that make us feel like we are in with them. Use of mirrors when needed, especially in a critical scene in a police van when the camera is always set on a rearview mirror where we see the entire conversation. It all adds up to a very cathartic movie-watching experience.
Shantanu Moitra, with his stunning background music, takes us back to the Satyajit Ray era. His idea of creating a musical void and filling it at the end of an intense scene with notes from an Indian musical instrument is reminiscent of legendary Ravi Shankar’s work. Moitra should do more of this because we all know where he takes us with his music in the Shoojit Sircar universe; it’s time he branches out again.
12th Fail Movie Review: The Last Word
I can go on for hours endorsing a tale that needs to be seen by the masses. 12th Fail deserves an audience, and we, as cinephiles, deserve cinema that respects us. Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Vikrant Massey have served one.
12th Fail Trailer
12th Fail releases on 27th October, 2023.
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For more recommendations, read our Khufiya Movie Review here.