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 Lal Bihari (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 the 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 a 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 Tripathi achieve 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 dead? It’s an important subject elevated to what seems like high art by the director and especially for Pankaj who lives the role of the living dead, the role of the simple-farmer who had to plough through acres of red-tapism 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.”
Image source: Instagram/pankajtripathi, Youtube/moviesbay
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