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Kaagaz Pankaj Tripathi Shines As A Dead Man Walking(And Talking)




Directed  by Satish Kaushik

Rating: ***

 Kaagaz  tells  a  very peculiar and poignant story of a man from Uttar Pradesh who spent 18 years  of his life proving that he  was alive. Unfortunately a bigger tragedy  than the one that befalls Lal Bihari strikes this well-intended film on  his  life.

Kaagaz is  peculiar  but  not the least  poignant. Director Satish Kaushik  with all his experience in theatre  and  cinema, fails to  invoke  any real sympathy in us for  Lal Bihari who for all practical purposes , is dead on governmental paper. If we feel  no real sympathy for Lal Bihari it isn’t our fault. Kaushik starts off the story as one of  monstrous bureaucratic  bungling and  then takes  the  tragedy into  the  dangerous territory of farce with  Lal Bihari making evey effort to get arrested   so that the  ensuing FIR  would prove he’s alive.

All of this is  done in one  hurried sweep that  allows us to stay with no particular emotion for the protagonist. Seasoned actor that he  is, Pankaj struggles to  furnish the character’s weird predicament  with a semblance  of  consistency. He succeeds  partially.And if Kaagaz is  watchable in parts , it is  only because  of Tripathi who seems to believe in  his character’s bizarre struggle,  even if we don’t.

I have always believed Satish Kaushik to be   a better  actor than a director. In Kaagaz he plays a shift jugadu lawyer(something  like what Pankaj Tripathi plays  in Criminal Justice) who  initially cons Lal Bihari into trusting the legal system (which fails Lal Bihari at every step) and then  becomes one with the  poor man’s struggle.

The  rest of the cast is unusually  listless. M Monal Gujjar who plays an important  part as Bihari Lal’s wife is way too groomed and  prim  to  look convincing as a  rustic spouse.The ever-dependable  Mita Vashist this once struggles to get a grip on her sketchy role as a wily politician.And  if you look really hard you will see Amar Upadhyay hiding under a  beard a scowl  that have  seen better days. Just like the  actor.

The  narrative suffers from  a strange death wish .By  the time Lal Bihari proves he is  alive our interest in his  story is dead.

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