“Kaagaz” is a biopic of a man declared dead on paper (by unscrupulous relatives out to usurp his property), who struggles against all forces to be declared “alive” again so that he can take a loan to expand his business—he plays a wedding band. This man, Bharat Lal (Pankaj Tripathi), lives in the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh and has a humble income but is happy with his loving wife (M. Monal Gajjar) and son and his decent income.
When he discovers what has been done by his relatives, he fights tooth and nail against the “system,” refusing to give up, come what may. He is ridiculed, taunted, insulted, even beaten physically, he exhausts all his savings and sacrifices his livelihood but to no avail. He even tries to take to crime or legally punishable activities like offending a judge (Brijendra Kala) to get himself arrested so that his name is documented down on paper as an accused. Finally, he even forms an “All-India” association of similar “dead” men and women, cultivates media attention locally, then in the state and finally internationally, with the help of two well-meaning journalists.
This story, culled from a dramatized narration of a real man, Lal Bihari, could have been a milestone in small, meaningful cinema, had it not been for the completely confused and erratic handling of such a socially sensitive subject. The first 30 minutes or so are charming and often witty, and Tripathi is in great fettle and very different from how we see him in his regular roles in films and on web.
Once the script falters, so does the actor in him—alarmingly. The last 40 minutes of this two-hours-minus saga goes from one excessively clichéd and boring sequence to another, getting implausible as well. Nothing helps hereon. Certainly not the (truly) excessive number of songs, of which “Bailgadi” is pleasing while on, but not memorable. There is even an item number!
The rest of the cast goes through the motions, with M. Monal Gajjar looking fetching and cute and acting ditto. The actress who plays the mastermind among the scheming relatives does well, but that’s it. What could have been a powerful document on screen about a social evil has been ruined by some inept work on “kaagaz” (paper) and beyond. And not even the theme poem by Aseem Ahmed Abbasee, recited by Salman Khan himself, counts in the final score.
Produced by: Salman Khan, Vikas Malu & Nishant Kaushik
Directed by: Satish Kaushik
Written by: Satish Kaushik & Imtiaz Hussein
Music: Pravesh Mallick, Rahul Jain & ceAzer
Starring: Pankaj Tripathi, M. Monal Gajjar, Satish Kaushik, Mita Vashisht, Brijendra Kala, Amar Upadhyay, Neha Chauhan, Pranay Narayan, Amit Pathak, Sharat Sonu, Ratan Lal, Arun Shekhar, Dinesh Sharma, Yogesh Kumar Shukla, Sp. App.: Sandeepa Dhar & others