12TH FAIL is the story of a man who rises against all odds. The year is 1997. Manoj Kumar Sharma (Vikrant Massey) lives in Chambal with his family. His father (Harish Khanna) has been suspended for his honesty. Manoj, meanwhile, appears for his 12th exams confidently though he hasn’t prepared properly. This is because the school teacher himself is going to help the students in cheating. The plan gets foiled as Dushyant Sharma (Priyanshu Chatterjee), the newly appointed DSP, stops the malpractice. As a result, all the students fail, including Manoj. When Dushyant rescues Manoj’s brother from corrupt cops, he realizes how power in the hands of an honest officer can bring positive change. Manoj expresses a desire to be like Dushyant. Dushyant asks him to not resort to cheating to become successful like him. After clearing his 12th exams successfully, Manoj graduates with BA and moves to Gwalior to appear for PCS exams. The exams, however, are discontinued, prompting Manoj to head to Delhi to appear for the IPS exams. Manoj develops cold feet when he sees the amount of people who have assembled just like him to change their fortunes. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s story, based on true events, is superb. Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s screenplay is engaging. This is not an easy topic but the master filmmaker-writer manages to pen an interesting script that keeps the interest going. Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s dialogues are sharp and clapworthy.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s direction is top notch. The impact in certain sequences is enhanced due to the creativity in the form of long shots, novel camerawork, background noise to depict realism etc. Some scenes that stand out are the beginning scene, Dushyant saving the life of Manoj’s brother and the subsequent conversation, Gauri bhaiya (Anshuman Pushkar)’s entry, the intermission point, Manoj meeting his father at the flour mill etc. The climax is gripping while the final scene is touching.
On the flipside, a few developments seem convincing. The track of the love interest’s family is not exciting. Manoj lying to Shraddha (Medha Shankar) is not well explained especially when he’s very truthful otherwise. The finale is touching but it gives a déjà vu of THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS  and 3 IDIOTS . Moreover, the film has a film festival-type treatment, which restricts its appeal. Lastly, the soundtrack is poor.
Vikrant Massey gets into the skin of his character. It’s difficult to believe that he’s not a villager turned IAS aspirant since he has given a very realistic portrayal. This is easily his best performance for sure. Medha Shankar is lovely and puts up a confident performance. Anant Vijay Joshi (Pritam Pandey) is likeable. Anshuman Pushkar leaves a huge mark. Priyanshu Chatterjee wins hearts with his cameo appearance. Harish Khanna is decent. Sarita Joshi (Manoj’s grandmother) is entertaining. Vikas Divyakirti (Teacher) delivers a stupendous performance. Geeta Agrawal Sharma (Pushpa; Manoj’s mother) doesn’t get much scope.
12th Fail – Official Trailer | Vidhu Vinod Chopra | In Cinemas Worldwide
Shantanu Moitra’s music is poor. ‘Restart’ does get registered but is not a song which will have a long shelf life. Shantanu Moitra’s background score is much better. Manav Shrotriya’s sound design is award-winning
Rangarajan Ramabadran’s cinematography is eye-catching, be it the scenes of Chambal or that of the crowded Mukherjee Nagar in Delhi. It’s also commendable that the film has been shot in real locations. Prashant Bidkar’s production design is realistic. The same goes for Malvika Bajaj’s costumes. Jaskunwar Kohli and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s editing is well-paced.
On the whole, 12TH FAIL is a well-intentioned inspiring saga. At the box office, it will find the going tough since the awareness about the film is near-zero.