After the popularity of Kaleen Bhaiyya, Pankaj Tripathi had the world at his feet. We’ve seen the versatility with which Tripathi performs, but Kaagaz proves that even the most veteran of actors and a brilliant real, factual story cannot save a film. A film that boasts a Salman Khan and Satish Kaushik production, with actors like Tripathi and Mita Vashisht at its helm, Kaagaz had everything in its favor, yet it failed to bring the magic of an unusual story to life.
And an unusual story it is – one of Lal Bihari, a farmer from Azamgarh, UP, who was declared dead by the government after his extended family plotted to take control of his land by killing him off on official papers. This was during the 1970s, and to no one’s surprise, stretched far and wide into the 1990s, when Lal Bihari, after numerous stunts and fights received his certification of being alive. Stories of the common man are always interesting to see, and this spin of death while alive guaranteed 2 hours of entertainment. Alas, it was not to be.
The film starts (and ends, sorry for the spoilers) with Salman Khan unnecessarily narrating a poem. Satish Kaushik has the role of a jolly lawyer, but for some reason, he is also narrating Lal Bihari’s (Bharat Lal in the film) story. Another addition to the list of unnecessary things is the item song at the house of the sarpanch, who adds basically nothing to the story except dance with the dancer to a song that seems to be as bland as the directing of the film. Next is Amar Upadhyay as MLA Vidhayak Jaganpal Singh, whose attempt at the North Indian accent is laughable at best.
Coming to the story, while researching, we (naturally) gravitated towards Lal Bihari’s Wikipedia page, which gave us the exact story of the film, and we did not feel like the film added anything more to it. The film, while shot in snippets, does not have a smooth transition from shot to shot, which makes it feel like an amateur production. The only bright spot seems to be the Chachi, whose acting skills and dialogue delivery makes us want to see her in every scene.
While the film does try to show us how bureaucracy has remained unchanged since independence, there must have been a better, more impactful way of delivering it. Pankaj Tripathi seems wasted on this opportunity, as does the story. Maybe Kaagaz was better on paper only.