As a director, Vidhu Vinod Chopra has made films on a variety of subjects. After making his feature film debut with ‘Sazaye Maut’ in 1981, the filmmaker has directed films based on different themes. Though the number of films made by Chopra is not very high, most of his films have stood out because of their visual aesthetics. His new film, ‘12th Fail’, is based on a book the same name authored by Anurag Pathak. The film, which has just released in the theatres, features Vikrant Massey in the lead role.
In 1997, Manoj Kumar Sharma (Vikrant Massey), who resides with his family in a village in the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh, is preparing for his 12th board exams. Manoj studies in a small school in the village which is not exactly known for imparting quality education to students. While the teachers give students the freedom to copy in the exams, the students are ecstatic to find their mathematics teacher writing the answer to all the questions on the day of the examination. The joy experienced by the students, however, is short-lived as DSP Dushyant Sharma (Priyanshu Chatterjee) arrives in the school and arrests the authorities for engaging in such activities. Manoj fails the examination and starts helping his brother with his newly launched business which involves ferrying people from one village to another. A fight leads to Manoj and his brother in jail. When Dushyant helps Manoj and his brother to come out of this situation, the latter realizes that if an honest person is in a powerful position, a positive change can be brought about in the society. With the desire in his heart to change the country for the better, Manoj decides to appear for PCS exams. A chain of events lead him to Delhi where he starts preparing to crack the IPS exams.
As somebody who hasn’t read the book, I am not in a position to confirm as to what is the amount of written material from the book that finds its way into the film. The screenplay (Vidhu Vinod Chopra), qualifies as one of the best written screenplays in recent years. This is one of those films where almost every scene leaves an impact on you and remains etched in your memory long after you have finished watching the film. Underdog stories tend to be a little predictable and make one go through familiar beats. ‘12th Pass’, however, has the kind of screenplay that keeps you on the edge of your seats and makes you wonder what will happen next. While certain moments are predictable, they are beautifully woven into the film and turn out to be highly memorable.
As stated earlier, films made by Vidhu Vinod Chopra are known for their visual aesthetics. ‘Shikara’, the director’s last film which was based on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, comprised of some gorgeous frames as well. This time around, the director has taken a very different approach. A large number of scenes in the film are shot using a handheld camera. Apart from depicting a sense of urgency, these shots also represent the instability Manoj is going through in his life. Many of the sequences have been filmed in the form of very long takes. This creative decision also works in favour of the film.
The background score (Shantanu Moitra) is one of the highlights of the film. Some of the music pieces remain entrenched in your mind several hours after you have finished watching the film. While the song ‘Bolo Na’ is tuneful, ‘Restart’ does not make much of an impression. The camerawork (Rangarajan Ramabadran) stands out. The production design (Prashant Bidkar) is very good. The sound design (Manav Shrotriya) is top-notch.
Vikrant Massey delivers the kind of performance that should for vie for the top honours this/next year. It is, without a doubt, one of the strongest performances one has seen an actor deliver in a film this year. Medha Shankar delivers a decent performance as Shraddha. Anshuman Pushkar is terrific as Gauri Bhaiya. The same goes for Anant Vijay Joshi. Sarita Joshi is very effective as Manoj’s grandmother. Priyanshu Chatterji leaves a solid impact with his brief appearance.
‘12th Fail’ is an extremely well-written and well-made film that warrants multiple viewings. The film, which talks about hope, imparts several important life-lessons in a very effective manner and makes for a highly satisfying watch.