Manoj Sharma: The ’12th Fail’ IPS officer played by Vikrant Massey

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Manoj Sharma: The ’12th Fail’ IPS officer played by Vikrant Massey
New Delhi:  Vikrant Massey, who is set to play the real-life character of IPS officer Manoj Kumar Sharma, in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s upcoming film ’12th Fail’, has opened up about the responsibilities he carried on his shoulders while portraying such a personality on screen.

Coming from Morena in the Chambal region once infamous for dacoits in Madhya Pradesh, Manoj Kumar Sharma was an IPS aspirant who had put up a brave fight while trying to chase his dreams.

From failing in Class XII to bagging the rank of 121 in the country’s most sought-after examination — the Civil Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) — to becoming an IPS officer in the Maharashtra cadre, Sharma’s life is nothing short of an inspirational journey.

Sharma, now a CISF officer, did not have any problem till Class VIII, but in the 9th and 10th he struggled to clear the papers and managed them somehow, but in Class XII, he failed the Board exams. After clearing Class XII in the second attempt, he completed his higher studies, and cleared the UPSC exam in his fourth attempt.

Along the way, he worked as a tempo driver, slept with beggars on the road, worked in a library, and also as a dog walker to pay the coaching class fees and buy books to prepare for the UPSC exam.

Sharma also met the love of his life, Shraddha Joshi, during his days of struggle. In those tough times, she supported him a lot. They’re married today and Shraddha is an IRS officer.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s movie ’12th Fail’ is based on the novel of the same name by Anurag Pathak. It narrates the real-life story of the lakhs of students who take the UPSC exam year after year.

It also features how these people come in droves, possess very little and receive next to no encouragement as they pursue their difficult dream.

Speaking to IANS, Vikrant talked about the relatability factor and the nuances of the role as well as the responsibilities that come with it.

He said doing justice to the character was very important for him. The role came with a sense of responsibility.”

“But in many ways my job was easier because of Mr [Vidhu Vinod] Chopra,” Massey added. “He is such an experienced filmmaker, he has given us some of the best films in Hindi cinema. The idea was to bring the character to life, and to be honest with it. But I was lucky that I got this part, because I could relate with most of the things.”

He shared that though he did not face the kind of struggles Manoj Sharma did, he knows personally what it means to be a struggler.

“The responsibility that we are talking about to begin with was to make sure the character is relatable,” Massey said.

“We have said in the media, written on the poster, and also said in the trailer that it is based on a true story, but it is inspired by a million true stories. It represents that common man who has faced hardships. And I just had to go out there and represent my own life. I had to go out and do justice to Manoj Sharma’s life, and to do justice to Mr Chopra’s vision. It was a daunting responsibility,” Massey said.

He noted the role was physically, emotionally and mentally challenging. “But I think today we have a very good film in our hands and we are proud of it,” Massey said.

Talking about the relatability factor, Massey pointed out: “My financial status was very much similar to Manoj Sharma’s. I come from a regular middle-class family. Many times I feel the conditions we had were of the lower middle class. The lower social acceptance you have because of your financial status, we have also faced that.”

Looking back at his own life, Massey said: “We used to travel in a single auto together, and since I was small, I used to sit on the lap of someone. On birthdays we had to think twice before buying a Rs 200 cake. I wore people’s castaway clothes. There was no problem with the clothes, but when I had to wear someone’s rejected shoes, then it was a problem for me. I could therefore personally relate to many parts of the story.”

The actor further said: “Most importantly, even Manoj Sharma in real life wanted to be heard. He had a very strong point of view. And I would want to believe that I as a person and not just an actor have a lot to prove, to present my worldview, and to be wholeheartedly accepted in our society.”

On his personally meeting with Manoj Sharma, Massey said: “Vidhu sir was very clear. He did not want to replicate Manoj Sharma. He wanted me to represent Manoj Sharma but in his own way.”

He added: “In Manoj Sharma you will also see Vidhu Vinod Chopra also. He has also struggled a lot in his life. He has made this film, and chosen this story because when he was reading this story, he reminisced about his childhood, life and struggles.”

Massey concluded by noting: “The idea was to give the role your own touch and not replicate Manoj Sharma. I met him, understood his thought process and worldview, and the things missed by the book or the script. But then it is a creative process, and in it you get the liberty to create life, which is an amalgamation of a lot of things.”

’12th Fail’ will be released on October 27 in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.

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