Irrespective of the propaganda machinery, it is the power of ‘word of mouth’ that lets a decent film find its way into the hearts of people. There’s an art in turning even the most simplistic underdog story into an engaging one. And if it is based on one true event, yet inspired by a million stories, it leaves you breathlessly motivated.

Perhaps that is why ‘12th Fail’ feels so real, because it enables most of us to connect on so many levels. The deadly combination of happiness, sorrow, helplessness, hope, betrayal and struggles, are feelings so universal, that at some stage, regardless of age or gender, one can easily create a parallel with our own lives.

Even if my own evolution in the academic field wasn’t as organic, even if my human perseverance was never put to test with the sheer pressure of competitive exams, even if I never had to start, and restart, from scratch; even if I did not deal with the panic, and the anxiety rushes of walking on the tightropes of red tape and corruption; some of the experiences did resound in a heavy way. Not to mention that it also reminded me of ‘Aspirants’, a series I had recently watched.

Perhaps my husband Shanker’s overwhelming experience of attending densely populated coaching institutes surrounded by lakhs of students with the same aspirations, brought back more memories to him than it did to me. Perhaps the struggle in his formative years and his determination to somehow accomplish his goal is more his story than it was mine.

But he came from a privileged background whose family did not have their hopes pinned only on his success alone. He did not have to deal with the caste issues. Nor did he have to prove anything to anybody.

Moreover, since we met only after my husband had cracked the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), our love story wasn’t as Bollywood-esque as IPS Manoj Kumar Sharma’s tale. Of how a love-smitten boy, was more focused on getting the ‘Shraddha’ in his life than concentrating on his studies. And yet.

The exuberance of sipping chai in crowded cafes with friends, the nervous feel of tension in the examination halls, the sinking sensations of hoping and praying to see your name appear on the board, were all enough to bring back some instant flashbacks of my student days.

Watching the ongoing struggle and camaraderie of millions of students who attempt, fail, restart, fail, restart, fail and keep restarting almost had me wondering why the film wasn’t called ‘Restart’ in the first place! Then I realised why.

Maybe because its success story stands firmly on the pillars of failure. In our ‘system’, if a certificate has a blot of being a 12th fail, or if the candidate hails from a ‘Hindi medium’ background, this perspective is often overlooked by those in positions of power. Therefore, without any gimmicky interviews, for the protagonist to be given a chance to pursue his dreams without dismissing him because he was a 12th fail, does extract a beautiful moment in the film.

Yes, some scenes may feel a bit over the top. Yes some may seem like a far cry from reality. Like the thought that ‘one’ honest police officer can actually plug all the loopholes in the mockery of a system persisting in our interior villages.

Or the established belief that a family can actually follow the path of an honourable life. But guess what? Having grown up in a familial environment where many such ‘Manoj Sharmas’ (gender notwithstanding) have flowered in the garden of devotion in my own backyard; having had the pleasure of interacting with some hot headed family members who cannot stand the fact of being labelled ‘crooks’; and having mingled with many friends who’ve had the opportunity to undertake the morally healthy path of sincerity and honesty, to me it does all this seems probable.

When leaders take education, the most powerful tool of change, and try to make it the most manipulative weapon to keep the public ignorant, then perhaps we all need more such Manoj Sharmas and Shraddhas in our country. When corruption is the cancerous monster, slowly eating away at our democracy, then perhaps we all need to take the only moral healthy trail during the day of our life.

And that would be to reject the paper notes and accept the values of the man printed on them. This and only this will perhaps become the most effective sleeping pill to allow us to sleep soundly at night.