Love During Adversity; Exploring The Ideas Of Companionship In Vikrant Massey's '12th Fail'

Chance meetings that turn into forever relationships, Vidhu Vinod Chopra's tear-jerker '12th Fail' is a love story at its core.

Published On Feb 21, 2024 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


Controversial opinion: We should do away with segregating movies into genres. Because if Interstellar, an out and about space movie, can be known essentially as a family drama, Vikrant Massey's 12th Fail will be a love story. And not just romantic love, which is based on the real life courtship of Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma and Shraddha Joshi Sharma, but also a close fraternity of people portrayed that many will find endearing, and might I say, even crave to have in their own lives, living in adversity or not.

For readers who've already seen the critically acclaimed picture, you will be nodding along to my observations. For people who're yet to watch, here's a quick lowdown on the themes of love presented in the film (no spoilers ahead!). Manoj Kumar Sharma, born in the dacoit-infested Chambal, faces insurmountable challenges in pursuit of his dream to become an IPS officer. A chance encounter with DSP Dushyant Singh changes his perspective. Along the way, he's blessed with a most beloved mentor, well-wishers turned adversaries and of course the love of his life!

The Vidhu Vinod Chopra directorial, which he also wrote and produced, presented Manoj's friendship with Pritam Pandey, a fellow UPSC aspirant. Down on his luck, Manoj is able to get back up with Pritam's help and as their relationship evolves, we see the dynamics change quite drastically. It's a tale as old as time where realistic friendships are often flawed. Yes, you want your friend's best interest at heart at most times, but the green jealously monster can rear its ugly head at any time. Pritam's character, who also happens to be the narrator of the story, turns antagonist and then has a redemption arc. Which when juxtaposed with the real world holds a lot of merit and something that many will relate to. In the end, its the camaraderie and sense of fraternity that triumphs over petty jealousy, and established the basis of a life-long friendship between the two. 

Our lead may often seem like he's been abandoned in his quest to achieve greatness. Manoj spends a lot of time away from the loving embrace of his family but finds a brother, and an influential mentor, in Gauri Bhaiya, also an ex-UPSC aspirant who now spends his days tutoring others so that they can crack the exam. It isn't just study material and text-cracking hacks that Guari Bhaiya has to offer. He also steps up when Manoj needs actual shelter and care. It's how actual siblings root for you and want to see you succeed. And emulates the love a person has for another who shares the same dreams, ideas and principles as you. It's about mutual respect and a idea of finding a friend…a warm gesture by the filmmakers saying that you will never be alone in the world now matter how much you self-isolate!

Manoj may be down on his luck with his early childhood and financial status, but he's blessed with friends, mentors and a partner who sticks by his side through thick and thin, quite literally! A chance encounter with Shraddha sends sparks flying. The pair start off as friends, supporting each other in their academic goals while developing a tender relationship based on mutual respect. Hardly ever do they venture into the questions of economic and family backgrounds because of Manoj and Shraddha, all that matters is who and what they stand for at the moment.

As their relationship evolves, we're introduced to the idea of how important social stature is in courtship in India. Meet cutes and start crossed lovers often suffer at the helm of societal expectations; clear demarcations stating who you're supposed to be falling in love with. We also see the pair struggle to keep their relationship going due to prolonged periods of financial lack on Manoj's part. Yet, we never see the two lose concern for one another. And on Shraddha's part, it doesn't stem from pity because she believes, quite truthfully, that a determined man can never be pitied, regardless of his financial status. I remember turning to my mother during this part of the film, asking, “Would you let me date Manoj? Without knowing that the story has a happy ending?”. She replies, “I don't think Manoj will be into you!”. So mom burn aside, as a single millennial in the daring scene today, this story is truly more fiction than fact for me!

Dealt with immense nuance and played adorably by the leads, we see Manoj and Shraddha refuse to adhere by society's ideas of who should date whom. It's quite a novel idea for young couples today and some might even scoff at the whole thing. But given that the story is based on a real life couple, do we really still get to say that true love doesn't exist in the modern world? 

Photo: Instagram/Vikrantmassey