Kaagaz The Uncommon Story Of A Common Man

It is gladdening to know that Satish Kaushik’s dream project  Kaagaz is  finally releasing on Zee5  in January. It’s a film that  Satish and his leading man Pankaj Tripathi are rightly proud  of. It tells the  story  of a  villager  LalBihari(here re-named  Bharat Lal) from Azamgarh  in  UP  who is declared dead by the government  and who  spent 19 years proving he was alive.

 The trailer released earlier this way  has many surprises in store. For one, Pankaj Tripathi has  given up on being the goon  from UP. It’s a refreshing change to see  him play the victim rather than perpetrator  for a change. And in the  few minutes’ trailer  time  it  is crystal-clear that Pankaj has brought in both poignancy and humour to his part  of man who is officially  “dead”.

Almost every frame has  Pankaj, and he is  likely to be a strong contender for  the National award. The director Satish  kaushik plays  Bharat Lal’s lawyer. What  I  noticed is that Kaushik’s storytelling is lighthearted without  being frivolous. It is   important to  convey  any important  message in cinema  with humour and  without preaching. In Kaagaz,Satish Kaushik and Pankaj  Tripathiachieve both.

When in a moment of frustration his  wife  suggests  that he give up the fight Pankaj’s reaction is  so strong yet  moderate that  you may actually miss  the point he’s making.How do you prove yourself alive  when the State declares you did? It’s an  important subject  elevated to what seems   like high art  by the  director  and specially for Pankaj who  lives   the role of  the  living dead,  the role of the simple-farmer who had to plough  through acres of redtapism to prove he was alive.

And to think the role was  originally offered  to Abhishek Bachchan!  Pankaj  was born to play  Lala  Bihari Mritak/ Bharat Lal, just as he  was born to play the mathematician Anand Kumar. But that’s another story.

 When I called to congratulate Pankaj Tripathi for the trailer  of  Kaagaz he told me he fell in  love with the script the minute he heard  it. “I had  to play this character. I had to know what happens to a mind when it’s put through such  a strange situation.I am very proud  of  Kaagaz. I regard  it as  the  most important  film I’ve done so  far.”

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