’12th Fail’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Is It Based On A True Story?


Indian filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s latest hit, 12th Fail, is quite typical of his general style—a plot that is emotionally moving even though it is not always very profound or realistic. This time around, the biographical drama film is based on a real person and has been adapted from a book of the same name by Anurag Pathak. While the Indian mindset’s fascination with civil service jobs is mostly about money and power, 12th Fail emphatically tells the real story of Manoj Kumar Sharma, a man truly driven by his passion to make society better.

Spoiler Alert

Why does Manoj want to become a public service officer?

12th Fail begins in the small, remote village of Bilgaon in 1997, where Manoj Kumar Sharma lives with his family. Hailing from the region of Chambal, which was historically infested with dacoits, Manoj belongs to the family of an army subedar who had been killed in action many years ago. Honesty and dedication towards citizens run in the family’s blood, as Manoj’s father, Ramveer, is a government clerk who wants to get rid of corruption from administrative spaces. The man gets in immense trouble when he speaks out against the corruption of the local “vidhayak” and refuses to sign false claims for him. After being suspended from duty, Ramveer refuses to accept this order either and instead goes away to town, wishing to fight the matter in court, taking a stand against such blatant corruption.

Among his siblings, Manoj is the only one serious about his studies, for he, too, wants to stand up for honesty in life. However, just like his father, Manoj, too, is the wrong person in the wrong place, for the entirety of Bilgaon runs on corruption. The only school in the village has a practice of rampant cheating in every year’s final exams, and in this particular instance, when Manoj is in class 12, the teachers take it a step further by themselves solving the question paper on the board for the students to simply copy down. A belief is deep-rooted in the system that these students only need educational qualifications on paper and that they will not be using education for anything worthwhile in life. But the easy and unlawful way of life is suddenly stopped when a new police officer, DSP Dushyant Singh, is transferred to Bilgaon. Having information about the practice of cheating at the school, Singh intervenes and ensures that examinations are held fairly, even arresting the principal on charges of corruption. As a result, Manoj, along with everyone else appearing for the exam, fails.

Since Ramveer is still away in his fight for justice, the responsibility of the family falls on Manoj and his elder brother, Kamlesh. As education has also not helped them either, the brothers decide to run their own motorized carriage to take villagers from one stop to another in exchange for meager ticket fees. However, this solution does not last long either, for the local “Vidhayak” steps in again, this time to forcefully transfer all the passengers on to his own bus, which he runs to earn money. Kamlesh protests against this unfair practice and is immediately arrested by the police, who keep him in custody overnight and even threaten to kill him before dawn. A helpless and desperate Manoj is let loose to fetch his grandfather’s rifle, so that the situation gets worse and the police can actually kill the brothers, but the protagonist shows his quick wit.

Manoj runs to DSP Singh’s house, asking for his help regarding the matter. Although the officer initially turns down the request, Manoj is able to convince him, and Singh eventually goes to the police station to release Kamlesh. Awed by the honest attitude of Dushyant Singh and the power he uses to help civilians fight against corrupt officers, Manoj expresses his desire to become a DSP, too. Singh’s only advice is that he must stop cheating, in that case, and these words shape Manoj’s character from then on. As Singh is transferred away from the village, students resume their cheating habits the very next year, but Manoj refuses to go against the rules anymore, and he honestly clears the exams with a third-division score.

What hardships does Manoj have to face on the way to his dreams?

A few years passed, and Manoj also completed his Bachelor of Arts in Hindi, following which he wanted to pursue public service as a profession seriously. The young man is tremendously helped by his grandmother, who had kept away all her life’s savings, despite the family’s impoverished state, only so that Manoj could use the money for his higher education. Filled with new hope and determination, the protagonist leaves his village to go to Gwalior in order to become a DSP, but his struggles begin at this very moment. A woman takes advantage of his simple-mindedness and steals his bag from the bus, containing all of Manoj’s belongings and the money for his education. To make matters worse, he also learned that all new recruitments in the Provincial Civil Services have been halted for three years, meaning that Manoj would have to wait for three years even to appear for the DSP selection procedure.

The man gets a lucky break when he suddenly runs across Pritam Pandey, who also happens to be the narrator in 12th Fail. In sharp contrast to Manoj’s situation, Pritam is from a rich and affluent family, as his father is also a civil service officer who just wants to have his son hold the same position. It is Pritam who takes Manoj to Delhi, where the two start preparing for the UPSC exams together. Manoj, who had no idea that there could be a post higher than DSP, now aims to become an IPS officer with the help of another senior applicant, Gauri. The protagonist’s life is filled with hardships from here on, and his sheer determination to fight through all of it and achieve his goals is what 12th Fail is entirely about. Manoj’s first attempt is a bust, as he fails to clear the preliminary round, and pressure grows on him.

During this time, Manoj had been living inside a public library building, where he was given the task of cleaning and maintaining the place in exchange for shelter and the books at his disposal. Despite his otherwise friendly nature, the protagonist loses all calm when anyone disrespects his father, evidencing the respect and love that he has for the man’s upright character. A disagreement with the library owner leads to Manoj leaving the building permanently, and he moves in at a dingy flour mill. Unlike applicants like Pritam, who have lavish apartments to live in and prepare for the exams, Manoj not only has to find his own shelter, but he also has to provide for his family’s needs. Therefore, the flour mill is the perfect fit for him, as it earns him some money as well as giving him shelter to study at, despite the very difficult living conditions.

The impoverished state of the Sharma family is made more evident when Manoj returns to Bilgaon after a few unsuccessful attempts at UPSC. Ramveer is still away, fighting his case, and meanwhile, the loss of the grandmother has caused a lot of grief to the family. All the cows, which were the only assets that they once owned, have had to be sold away, and Manoj’s mother has to work as a daily laborer at the fields of others in the village. Therefore, Manoj simply has no choice but to make his dreams come true and definitely keep trying to clear the UPSC exams. 12th Fail is a tribute to innumerable Indians like Manoj, who have to fight through extreme impoverishment while having to bear the responsibility of their families, and then ultimately make it big in life, not just through public or civil services, but in any field of profession. Manoj is tremendously helped along the way by Gauri, who continues to train students for free despite failing to clear the UPSC exams in all attempts. Gauri embeds the desire to restart after every failure in Manoj’s mind, which is a very necessary mantra to face the civil services exams in India. The man is also later coached by Dr. Vikas Divyakriti, who himself acts out the role in the film and is a noted UPSC trainer in the country.

Despite all his hardships and failures, Manoj Kumar Sharma holds on to his virtues of honesty and sincerity, and he does not lose focus on what he actually wants to achieve. Even during the interview round of his final attempt, he chooses to remain honest rather than be taken over by the greed of accomplishing his dreams. On being asked why he had to repeat class 12th, Manoj does not lie about the death of any relative preventing him from taking the exam; instead, he tells the truth. While the situation at Bilgaon is made fun of by some of the prejudiced examiners, the protagonist slogs through the interview, holding on to his grit and passion, keeping his spirit alive.

Do Manoj and Shraddha end up together?

During his initial days in Delhi, Manoj had come across a young woman named Shraddha Joshi at a coaching center. When Shraddha comes down to the public library a few days later, the two get introduced better, and the friendship very soon turns into love. Shraddha is from Mussoorie, and her second interaction with Manoj makes her believe that he is an engineer. Manoj, too, does not correct her mistake either, fearing that she will leave him if she gets to know his real background. This information does eventually come out, and it leads to a misunderstanding between the two, but only because Shraddha is angry that Manoj did not tell the truth to her.

After a couple of rejections, Manoj takes the bold step of going over to Shraddha’s house in Mussoorie and professing his love for her, which the woman blatantly rejects. It is this rejection that drives the protagonist even more, and he grows stronger-willed to crack the UPSC exams. When Shraddha returns to Delhi and wants to rekindle their romance, Manoj refuses to prioritize spending time with her over his studies for the preliminary round. But Shraddha supports this decision, too, and their own individual efforts to be successful in life only make their bond stronger. Eventually, Shraddha tries her luck in the PCS exams and clears them, becoming a proud district collector. This news motivates Manoj even more to give all his dedication to his studies.

But jealousy gets in the way of Manoj and Shraddha’s love when their mutual friend, Pritam Pandey, grows bitter after repeated rejections. Pritam calls up Shraddha’s father in Mussoorie and falsely reports to him that his daughter and Manoj had gotten physically intimate in Delhi. This angers the man terribly, and Shraddha has to spend some time convincing her father to have trust in her again. But by the end, everything works out perfectly, and once Shraddha returns to Delhi, she professes her love for Manoj, and the two decide to stay together through all odds in life.

Does The Film have a happy ending?

12th Fail indeed has a very happy ending, with Manoj finally clearing all rounds of the UPSC exams and the interview to become an IPS officer. Shraddha, now a District Collector, had accompanied Manoj to his interview, and on that very day, she expressed her desire to marry him and spend her life with the man. When Manoj finally becomes an IPS officer and informs his parents over the phone, there is no end to happiness on either side. Pritam also confronts his father about his desire to be a TV journalist instead, and he finally starts following his passion. Gauri continues to claim Manoj’s success as the victory and success of thousands like him, and very rightly so.

During 12th Fail‘s ending, Manoj and Shraddha finally get married to each other. The photographs of the real Manoj Kumar Sharma and Shraddha Joshi are also shown to end the film on an emphatic and joyous note.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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