Updated: January 9, 2021 8:42:00 am
Kaagaz cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Monal Gajjar, Satish Kaushik, Mita Vashishth, Brijendra Kala, Amar Udhayay, Neha Chauhan
Kaagaz director: Satish Kaushik
Kaagaz rating: One and a half stars
The paramount importance of a ‘sarkari kaagaz’ is at the heart of this bucolic tale: if you are unfortunate enough to be declared dead on paper, no amount of yelling and screaming can make you come alive.
This is what the hapless Lal Bihari (Tripathi), resident of Azamgarh, UP, discovers, much to his horror. A conniving aunt and her brood conspire to cheat the straight-forward Lal Bihari out of his inheritance, and a life-and-blood person slips into the darkness of the dreaded file. Based on the real-life story of a farmer of the same name, Lal Bihari is left floundering, as Kaagaz takes us through his never-ending paper chase from seedy courts and greedy lawyers to the press to the large mansions where reside elected representatives of the people: surely someone can help?
We see Lal Bihari run from the proverbial pillar to post, even as his harried wife (Gajjar) and his two growing children bear the brunt of his never-say-die attitude: the derision and humiliation dished out by the people to whom Lal Bihari goes for support, proves unbearable. He suffers, while everyone else makes merry. His rotund lawyer (Kaushik) is happy about his ‘bakra’ who has to keep coughing up precious cash; local ‘neta’ (Vashishth) gives him time, but can offer, completely improbably, no solution.
In these days of non-stop discussion-and-discord over official papers (the spirited anthems around ‘hum kaagaz nahi dikhaygene’ still have residual power), Kaagaz could have been an important film. But the plot is littered with clichés, and comes off distressingly dated: the evil aunt rolls her eyes, the bad guys swirl their ‘moochch’, the item girl swings her waist, the sarkari cogs-in-the-wheel smirk, and so on.
You sit through this only because of the liveliness of Pankaj Tripathi, the actor who owned 2020, and whose playing of Lal Bihari ‘Mritak’, a man buffeted by other people’s malice and guile, is full of sincerity. And humanity.
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