Kaagaz Movie Review – Crawling Web with Bharathi S Pradhan
When Pankaj Tripathi, this season’s most popular actor, was asked what his dream biopic would be, he replied that his dream had already come true. Pankaj had aspired to play an ordinary man and he revealed that working in Satish Kaushik’s biopic about farmer Lal Bihari Mritak made his dreams come true.
It’s an astonishing yet infamously running tale of how a man one day finds out he has been pronounced dead in government records to facilitate the fraudulent takeover of his land by unscrupulous family members. . In the film, it is the satisfied conductor Bharat Lal of the Azamgarh district in UP who risks his “death” when he seeks a bank loan to extend his life. band-baja, goes to his family home to retrieve the papers of his ancestral property and is chased away by his chacha-chachi and cousins who declared him dead and took over his land.
Back home, his dilemma first evokes dark humor when friends, and even his wife Rukmani (Mona Gajjar), do little digs that he’s been officially declared a living ghost. The village children laugh and call her bhoot chacha.
But it gets serious when nothing in the system, sarpanch to the chief minister, the courts, global media attention and the legislature, can right a flagrant wrong. Even though routine work escapes him, at one point Bharat sends his wife to apply for a widow’s pension since he is believed to be dead. But since he was alive, she was kicked out of the sarkari daftar. This is how the system works – Bharat Lal cannot benefit neither the living nor the dead.
A story that began in 1977 takes more than a decade to finally resolve. Years filled with frustration and humiliation and being called mad for his desperate measures. It should be troubling that Lal’s actual trauma was not an isolated case. The All Indian Association of Dead People or Akhil Bharatiya Mritak Sangh which he founded in despair is a reality.
Sadly, none of the poignant aspects of such a pathetic situation take place, as Satish Kaushik’s narrative is woefully outdated, bizarre, and over-the-top. There’s even the antique addition of an item number by Sandeepa Dhar (pretty but unnecessary). Such an old-fashioned cinema makes a relevant question improbable and implausible. When his plight caught the attention of the media and politics, why the hell would it be unresolvable?
A sharper and smoother narrative perhaps made the point clear, especially after the lightness of the kind-hearted conductor’s opening scenes, like his conversation with a mouse, gives way to the tearful heaviness of the theme.
Perhaps the only draw is Pankaj Tripathi’s current popularity, coupled with his skills. But keeping attention focused under such insurmountable circumstances is not as light a task as kaagaz.