12th Fail is a 2023 Indian Hindi-language biographical drama film produced, written and directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. It is based on the 2019 eponymous non-fiction book by Anurag Pathak about the real-life story of Manoj Kumar Sharma, who overcame extreme poverty to become an Indian Police Service officer. The film stars Vikrant Massey in the title role, alongside Medha Shankar, Anant V Joshi, Anshumaan Pushkar, and Priyanshu Chatterjee.
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Released theatrically on 27 October 2023, 12th Fail received critical acclaim and emerged a sleeper hit, grossing over ₹66 crore (US$8.3 million) worldwide on a ₹20 crore (US$2.5 million) budget.
Born in the dacoit-infested Chambal, Manoj Kumar Sharma is the son of an upright clerk and the grandson of a subedar who died in action. His father and grandmother are both extremely honest and do not believe in corruption. Due to this unflinching belief, Manoj’s father is suspended for hitting a corrupt officer. Manoj prepares cheat slips for his Class 12 final exam, as do all his batchmates. However, the newly transferred police officer, DSP Dushyant Singh, stops cheating in the school. As a result, all the students, including Manoj, fail the exam. Meanwhile, his father goes to challenge his suspension in the High Court. The brothers decide to put together a traveling rickshaw and charge fees so that they can help out at home. Manoj’s brother is arrested on false charges for hitting the local henchman of the MLA after he tries to get their passengers to travel on a bus; the corrupt police officers try to frame them as well. However, Manoj successfully bails his brother out with the help of DSP Dushyant, who advises Manoj to “stop cheating” when he requests to learn how to become an officer like him.
One year later, Manoj passes his exams without cheating and chooses to pursue B.A. in History and Hindi Literature to become a DSP. His grandmother gives him all her savings as he sets out to study in Gwalior but loses all his belongings along the way. He then comes to know that the government has decided to stop the Group I exams of MPPSC for the next three years. This destroys his dream of becoming a DSP. He roams around the streets with an empty stomach until he is about to faint, but a local hotel owner near the local railway station gives him a meal. There he meets Pritam Pandey, who had also come to study for the PSC exam. Pandey’s father calls him and tells him to prepare for the UPSC exam in Delhi. Manoj learns about UPSC and travels with Pritam to Delhi to study and become an IPS officer. He meets Gauri Bhaiya, who is working up his last attempt to clear the examination and provides Manoj with job opportunities and a place to study. However, Gauri Bhaiya is unable to clear his final attempt. Deciding to move on, Gauri Bhaiya opens a coaching institute and a tea stall named ‘Restart’ and provides his services for free.
The following year, Manoj attempts the preliminary examinations but fails. With Gauri Bhaiya’s help, he reappears and manages to clear it. During a visit to a coaching centre, he meets Shraddha Joshi from Mussoorie, who is aiming for the UKPSC, and falls in love with her. Despite his best efforts, Manoj fails to clear his main examinations that year as well; his initially budding relationship with Shraddha hits a brief block when she learns of his true identity as a literature graduate rather than an aeronautical engineer. He then decides to work even harder, though it yields the same result. Now, a frustrated Gauri Bhaiya moves Manoj to his own house and tells him to give up working odd jobs and start to completely focus on his studies. He does so and finally clears the main examinations as well, with help from Shraddha, who by this time has cleared her UKPSC examinations to become a Deputy Collector. Around this time, Pritam, who had repeatedly failed all his exams, gets jealous of Manoj and maligns him and Shraddha by claiming she has been “sleeping” with Manoj. This causes a wrench in their relationship, but eventually, it is cleared, even though Manoj becomes very angry with Pritam. He had realized earlier that Pritam wanted to work as a reporter even though his father was forcing him to pursue the UPSC and advised Pritam to stand up against his father.
Manoj gives his interview and honestly responds to all the questions. He reads a letter written to him by Shraddha asking him to marry her. He happily gives the interview and two months later, when the results are declared, Manoj realizes he has got the rank to become an IPS officer and breaks down crying with emotion. One year later, he becomes an IPS officer and goes to meet DSP Dushyant Singh at the police station in Mandsaur to thank the DSP for encouraging him to give up cheating and gives him his wedding invitation card. Manoj celebrates his wedding with his friends and family, finally having won against the tides of the cruel and competitive education system, with Pritam chipping in as the reporter, finally pursuing his dream.