Kaagaz: A Solid Story Wasted

Satish Kaushik’s Kaagaz has its heart in the right place but never comes together as a whole due to its dated treatment. The only redeeming factor for this one is the ever dependable Pankaj Tripati who gets to play the leading man for the first time in his career. His sincere performance is the only thing which makes you sit through this one.

Based on a real life story, Pankaj Tripati plays a bandmaster called Bharat Lal in a village in Uttar Pradesh. He is content with his tiny shop and his small family until a well wisher advises him to get a loan for expanding his business. When Bharat Lal tries to get the ownership papers of his land to keep as a mortgage for the loan, he realizes that his extended family has declared him dead in order to usurp the land. Rest of the story is about how Bharat Lal struggles to prove that he is still alive. In doing so sometimes he takes extreme steps which make him look like a buffoon for the villagers. But this doesn’t stop him from wanting to prove himself alive. Satish Kaushik, the director, also plays the lawyer character who initially takes up the case of Bharat Lal just for the sake of it but later he turns out to be a big support. What follows is a social comedy which doesn’t fully exploit its potential.

The first thing which strikes you about the film is the treatment which reminds you of 70’s. Agree that the film is set in the 70’s but as a filmmaker Satish Kaushik should have realized that he is making a film for the 2021 audience. You can clearly see the datedness of the film from its first frame. To make matters worse there is also a pointless item number early on in the film. The song looks completely out of place and you feel like fast forwarding.

Another bothersome aspect of the film is that it plays out more as a comedy. There is an attempt to dilute the seriousness of the topic which shouldn’t have happened. The best example of this is the reaction of the wife to the scenario. She responds to his predicament by saying that she also has doubts whether he is a ghost or an actual person.

In reality 20,000 people have been declared dead in Uttar Pradesh for various nefarious reasons while they were very much alive. The director failed to portray the gravity of the situation by taking a light hearted approach. Bharat Lal was so frustrated to prove himself alive that he stands in an election to get his name into the official record. Likewise he goes to the extent of kidnapping his brother’s son so that his name will appear in the police records.

Kaagaz has also some similarities with Aamir Khan’s production Peepli Live. That was also a social comedy but unlike that this one is a missed opportunity.

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