12th Fail: Is Deep Mohan Based on a Real IAS Officer?

12th Fail,’ the Hindi-language drama film, follows Manoj Kumar’s journey from an impoverished village to Delhi’s big city, where he sustains a living while preparing for his UPSC exams. As such, the narrative explores the unique ecosystem of UPSC students in India, who dedicate years of their lives in an attempt to clear incredibly competitive exams and attain highly sought-after professions. The perspective that the film equips of an underprivileged young man with mountainous determination particularly marks the inspirational aspect of his story.

Consequently, Deep Mohan, another UPSC aspirant with access to resources and support that aren’t available to Manoj, almost acts as a narrative character foil. As such, despite his minimum screen presence, the character leaves an impression on the audience, compelling them to wonder if he has any basis in reality.

Deep Mohan, An English-medium UPSC Student

Like many secondary characters depicted within ’12th Fail,’ Deep Mohan’s real-life origins also remain unknown. The film is an adaptation of a 2019 non-fiction biographical novel about the real Manoj Kumar Sharma, written by Anurag Pathak. Thus, the film is intrinsically connected to reality, albeit through one layer of separation. Thus, in revisiting Kumar’s story through an already-edited version of his life, the film ends up creating a dramatized account of real life.

Therefore, it is likely that Deep Mohan’s character is an iteration of an actual person from IPS Officer Manoj Kumar’s life. Yet, it’s impossible to track down the existence of such an individual.

Despite the same, Deep Mohan’s on-screen character incorporates a much-needed dose of realism into the narrative that adds contrast against Manoj’s journey and highlights the latter’s resilience and dedication. Unlike Manoj, Deep comes from a wealthy family who can afford his tuition and living costs without much hassle. Furthermore, Deep has had a history of impressive education, likely from a private English-medium school.

For the same reason, Deep entered the UPSC exams with a much stronger foundation than Manoj, whose village school was known to encourage cheating during the final exams. Moreover, unlike the former, Manoj has to worry about a constant source of income to sustain his living and perform his responsibilities to his family. Therefore, by pitching Deep against characters like Manoj and Gauri Bhaiya, the narrative makes a pointed observation about class disparity and privilege.

According to Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration Statistics, out of 350 trainees who attempted UPSC exams in Hindi, only 15 passed in 2015. In the same year, 329 trainees passed the exams in English. Likewise, in 2019, at the LBSNAA, 326 Civil officials joined the Foundation Course. Of these officials, a mere eight of them passed the Civil Services exam in Hindi, and the rest 315 passed in English.

Therefore, an obvious correlation exists in the disparity between English and Hindi UPSC students, which in turn is connected to class, social, and financial status. In that regard, Deep Mohan’s narrative within the film offers some perspective to the audience. Even within the film, after Manoj tries to seek out help or advice of any kind from Deep, who has become an IAS officer by the time Manoj arrives at his fourth UPSC attempt, Deep’s advice remains tied to the fact that Manoj is unable to dedicate enough time to his preparation due to his taxing day job.

As such, regardless of Deep Mohan’s tangible relation to a real-life IAS Officer who may or may not have been a part of Manoj Kumar’s real life, the character’s sense of realism lies in his thematic authenticity. Ultimately, the character has deep roots in reality and possibly harvests inspiration from a real, if unnamed, person.

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