Director: Rajiv Mehra
Cast: Pankaj Kapoor,Gaurav Kapoor,Manoj Pahwa,Asavari Joshi,Deven Bhojani,Sanjay Mishra,Hemant Pandey,Makarand Deshpande
Prove that youre alive,and well give you what is yours. A living,breathing man is made to listen to this absurdity,in,where else,a government office,sinking under the weight of its dead files and corrupt ‘karamcharis. Mussaddi Lal Tripathi,retired school master,indefatigable upholder of truth,takes a deep breath,girds imaginary loins,and sets out after justice.
Those familiar with the long-running sit-com of the same name will know most of the characters,who reprise their role in the film : the beleagured Mussaddi Lal (Pankaj Kapoor), his ‘nikamma son (Gaurav Kapoor ) who has high hopes of his fathers pension,and his ‘sarkari tormentors (Pahwa,Joshi,Bhojani,Mishra,Pandey). A dead wife and her ashes is added to the storyline,which gives the film the chance to take cheery potshots at greedy pundits,but the main chunk of the film is set in the pensions office in Babunagri Dilli,with its dusty offices,dustier files,and petty officials who sit around eating samosas (which they havent paid for),and harassing the helpless souls who have the gumption to ask for what is rightfully theirs (which they demand to be paid for).
Swipes are taken at all kinds of other things. The son cant get a decent job (MA kar ke tel bechoonga kya,asks Tripathi Jr indignantly,to which his irate father has no answer). There are no beds in nursing homes because the ward boys havent been paid. The school where Mussaddi Lal taught for years is commemorating his death,his student demands a signing amount on an affidavit,and he didnt show up to on the date he was supposed to : ergo,hes dead,and the dead dont require pensions,only a shroud.
In ‘Munnabhai,the old man who took his clothes off as protest in a government office,triumphed in the end. Here Mussaddi Lal makes no such dramatic gesture,which is both a good thing,and a bad thing : high drama makes for interesting viewing even if you cant quite see an old man stripping to make a point,but keeping a two-hour film engrossing on a single-thread plotline can lead towards repetition. Satire needs sharpness,or it can just end up as a stretched out sit-com : Mussaddi Lal is saying things we all need to hear,but the film manages to make the cut only some of the time.