Pro Tools
•Register a festival or a film
Submit film to festivals Promote for free or with Promo Packages

FILMFESTIVALS | 24/7 world wide coverage

Welcome !

Enjoy the best of both worlds: Film & Festival News, exploring the best of the film festivals community.  

Launched in 1995, relentlessly connecting films to festivals, documenting and promoting festivals worldwide.

Working on an upgrade soon.

For collaboration, editorial contributions, or publicity, please send us an email here

User login


RSS Feeds 

Martin Scorsese Masterclass in Cannes services and offers


Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



12th Fail, Review: Want to bet on it? The chances are 30 out of 2,00,000

Hara Vahi Jo Lada Nahi (only he who did not fight loses) is the tagline on the book, 12th Fail, written in Hindi by Anurag Pathak and translated into English by Gautam Choubey and Lalit Kumar. For the film version, the writing credits go to Vidhu Vinod Chopra (who has directed the movie), Jaskunwar Kohli (co-writer), Anurag Pathak (associate writer) and Aayush Saxena. A village student, Manoj Kumar Sharma, who failed his 12th exams, who does not know where his next meal is going to come from, goes on to clear the Indian Police Service (IPS) exam. If that is not inspiring, what is?

Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who has directed nine films in 42 years (1942: A Love Story, is one of them), has been more prolific as a writer and producer. For this film, he picks an idealist, fiercely honest, never-say-die man, to do a biopic on. It has some outstanding performances but many predictable situations. Yet, it is a great relief from weapons of mass destruction that pass off as movies these days.

The true story begins in the ravines of Chambal, a most-dreaded dacoit area, where the protagonist lives and studies. His father, Ramveer, has just been sacked from his job by unscrupulous and corrupt men, who work for the local legislator. Ramveer refuses to sign doctored documents, involving a major fraud, and pays the price. This politician pretty much owns all the businesses in the village. To give his under-privileged family a hand, Manoj, along with his best friend, decides to operate an auto-rickshaw, in which several persons can ride. This affects the business of the legislator, who operates a bus service, and Manoj has to give-up the trade.

At high school, Manoj and his friends are given an open hand to copy the answers from little chits that they have brought. Better still, the teacher writes all the answers on the blackboard, to ensure that de not make any mistakes while copying. An upright police officer visits the school and sees what is happening. The teacher tries to bribe him, but he is unrelenting, and stops the activity. The teacher warns him that the school is run by the legislator, and he was letting them copy because, otherwise, they would all fail, and bring a bad name to the school and the village. Mesmerised by the police officer’s action, Manoj decides to give the exam for becoming an Indian Police Service officer. His pursuit takes him to Delhi, which is the main centre for the exam. On the way, while travelling in a bus, a woman decamps with his bag, which had all his belongings, including his grandmother’s savings, given to him to meet his expenses. Several fellow students come to his rescue, and he takes-up odd-jobs as well. There, he meets a girl who takes to him instantly, on account of his principled stance. But she comes from a rich family, and lives in Mussoorie.

A tale about overcoming all odds, and a true story at that, 12th Fail sticks to the basics. However, some scenes tend to go overboard. The grandmother’s character, which will win many hearts, is one such instance. Also, the scene in the coaching class, where Manoj goes to enroll himself, provides humour, but is just that bit overboard. Does the legislator take any action against the police officer or not…we are in the dark. A fellow passenger decamping with someone’s luggage is a familiar ploy from many a film, as familiar as a stranger in town having his pocket-picked (this not from the film). Another example of humour occurs when Manoj reveals that there was a question on Tourism, and he had answered it perfectly. Just then, a fellow candidate enlightens him that there was no question on Tourism, but one on Terrorism. That being the case, how did such a student prepare for the exam? Most books, if not all, would be in English. 12th Fail is not the ideal title for the film, for the term refers to a very brief episode in Manoj’s life. Highlighting the plight of vernacular-speaking hopefuls, who want to pass the IPS or Indian Foreign Service (IFS) exam, the film also reminds us that we live in an age where there is abject poverty, contrasted with filthy richness. Each character is painted in a different hue. It appears deliberate that the female lead gives Manoj her address, in Mussoorie, with directions, long before they come very close. Her part is short, as it should be, to keep Manoj focused on his exams.

Good casting is half the battle won, and Vidhu Vinod Chopra has a fine cast, though none of them are stars. That is a risk he has taken, and it has paid off to a large extent. He follows the now common style of cutting on a question and an actors close-up, and then providing the answer in the next shot. 12th Fail follows in the trend of several films with which Vidhu Vinod Chopra was associated, as producer or writer or both: Munna Bhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, 3 Idiots and PK. 3 Idiots was a satire on the professional education system, while the two Munnabhai films had as their central character, a well-meaning ruffian, who highlights loopholes in the medical education system. In all these films, the hero was an underdog. In 12th Fail, is able to capture the life of students from all over India, who want to clear their IPS/IFS, at all cost, sometimes appearing 4-6 times for the exams. Most of them have very little money to stay on in Delhi, yet they pool in resources to support each other. One must appreciate the fluidity with which he has filmed the scene of cheating in the school and the arrival of the police officer.

After Chhapaak, Vikrant Massey adds an even bigger feather to his cap. As Manoj, his innocent, vulnerable face hides a steely interior. His is a winning performance. Massey gives an all new dimension to the word ‘loser’. Playing his love interest is Medha Shankr (she spells it this way), who was first seen in the BBC series Beecham House, directed by Gurinder Chadha and then in Shaadisthan. She has to thank Facebook, for that is where she was discovered. Medha plays a strong character, without being pushy or overtly arrogant, and does it quite well. Harish Khanna, as Ramveer, puts in a completely natural performance. As the police officer, Priyanshu Chatterjee has both, a steely exterior and steely interior. Vikas Divyakirti appears as himself, a Coach, and oozes calm confidence. At 82, Sarita Joshi, a legend in the theatre world, is in fiery form, as Manoj’s grandmother. This main cast is supported by Sanjay Bishnoi, Vijay Kumar Dogra, Anshuman Pushkar, Joshi Anantvijay, Sam Mohan, Sukumar Tudu, Salim Siddiqui, Dilip Tomar, Suraj Naagar, Fasi Khan, Triaksh Chhabra and Abhishek Sengupta. Many real-life students play themselves.

A major chunk of 12th Fail was shot in the two education hubs for government job aspirants, Rajendra Nagar and Mukherjee Nagar, in Delhi. Shantanu Moitra composes some very good music. Cinematography by Rangarajan Ramabadran is passable. Editing by Jaskunwar Kohli and Vidhu Vinod Chopra goes slow, but, time and again, there are sudden unexplained flashes. 146 minutes a bit too long.

Only 30 out of 1,99,970 Hindi medium educated candidates clear their IPS/IFS exams. Wonder how this film will affect their fate, if at all. Many appear 4-6 times, each attempt being dubbed ‘restart’ by the characters in the film. Manoj’s journey is a mix of good fate and hard work. As I have always maintained, only hard work can never get you through. But only luck, without hard work, can. 12th Fail is a feel-good film that tugs at your heart. It suggests that if you push yourself to the extreme and remain honest and upright, success will follow. Sadly, that is not the truth in real life. Of course there are exceptions, like Manoj, but exceptions only prove the rule. Quoting the film’s own statistics, the chances are 30/200,000.

A clean film, with no masala, with plenty of sentimental stuff, about a family’s struggle to uphold the principles of honesty and truth, against all odds, based on a true story, as real as it gets, an expected end…that just about sums it up.

Rating: ** ½



The Bulletin Board

> The Bulletin Board Blog
> Partner festivals calling now
> Call for Entry Channel
> Film Showcase
 The Best for Fests

Meet our Fest Partners 

Following News

Interview with EFM (Berlin) Director



Interview with IFTA Chairman (AFM)



Interview with Cannes Marche du Film Director
 dailies live coverage from

> Live from India 
> Live from LA
Beyond Borders
> Locarno
> Toronto
> Venice
> San Sebastian

> Tallinn Black Nights 
> Red Sea International Film Festival

> Palm Springs Film Festival
> Kustendorf
> Rotterdam
> Sundance
Santa Barbara Film Festival SBIFF
> Berlin / EFM 
> Fantasporto
Houston WorldFest 
> Julien Dubuque International Film Festival
Cannes / Marche du Film 



Useful links for the indies:

Big files transfer
> Celebrities / Headlines / News / Gossip
> Clients References
> Crowd Funding
> Deals

> Festivals Trailers Park
> Film Commissions 
> Film Schools
> Financing
> Independent Filmmaking
> Motion Picture Companies and Studios
> Movie Sites
> Movie Theatre Programs
> Music/Soundtracks 
> Posters and Collectibles
> Professional Resources
> Screenwriting
> Search Engines
> Self Distribution
> Search sites – Entertainment
> Short film
> Streaming Solutions
> Submit to festivals
> Videos, DVDs
> Web Magazines and TV


> Other resources

+ SUBSCRIBE to the weekly Newsletter
+ Connecting film to fest: Marketing & Promotion
Special offers and discounts
Festival Waiver service

User images

About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


View my profile
Send me a message