Disclaimer: The following post contains spoilers from the film Kaagaz.
From the erstwhile Office Office to R.K. Laxman's comics, storytellers have often provided an insightful, at times humorous, at times tragic, look into the life of the common man in India.
And director and actor Satish Kaushik's latest film Kaagaz, starring Pankaj Tripathi in the lead role, is the latest entry into the list of stories on India's common man.
Streaming on Zee5, Kaagaz is a heartwarming biopic, with some truly hilarious dialogues, that attempts to sum up in 2 hours a single man's 19-year-old long fight against bureaucracy and corruption.
Here are some of the most beautiful moments from the film:
1. When Bharat Lal first realizes that he has been declared dead on official papers.
Bharat Lal is content with the way life is going until prompted by his friends and wife, he decides to take a loan to expand his business. It's when he is arranging for property papers to give as collateral, that he realizes he has been declared dead on official papers.
From bewilderment to confusion to anger, Bharat Lal experiences multiple emotions, as he tries to come to terms with two things - that he's been declared dead and that, despite his physical presence, the 'error' can't be corrected.
In a single scene, Pankaj Tripathi's emotive act highlights both sides of the coin, the tragic results of corruption and the way bureaucratic red tape hinders justice.
2. When Bharat Lal realizes that a fellow 'mritak' died without ever being declared alive officially.
In his quest to be declared alive on official papers Bharat Lal seeks a lawyer. In the process, he comes across another person, Pitamah, with the same fate.
After fighting for over 20 years, Pitamah passes away without ever being marked alive in official documents. It's a heartbreaking moment for Bharat Lal who realizes that he too could suffer the same fate.
That's what prompts Bharat Lal to undertake one outrageous activity after the other, like getting himself arrested, contesting elections only to lose them, adding the word 'mritak' (dead) to his name, and even going on a funeral procession, all to convince the government to file an official document in his name.
3. When Bharat Lal gives an impassioned speech to a judge about his situation.
Bharat Lal fights for his cause for years, only to fail in the face of rampant corruption and mismanaged government. But when another judge refuses his petition, he breaks down and gives an impassioned speech about his situation and the inefficacy of the legal system.
It's a heartbreaking moment when you realize that a single mistake that seems so absurd as to be hilarious, has actually disrupted a man's entire life.
4. When Bharat Lal's wife leaves him after he unfairly blames her for his situation.
Bharat Lal convinces his wife to seek compensation under the Widow Welfare Scheme since all of their income and savings go into his fight against the system. However, the government officials ridicule her, proving that you can neither win against a corrupt system nor benefit off of it.
Consequently, her uncle pitches in to help the family financially which hurts Bharat Lal's ego and he blames his wife for his situation since she first prompted him to get a loan. Hurt, she rebukes him for ignoring her self-respect and moves back to her uncle's house.
6. When Bharat Lal is finally declared alive on official papers.
After 19 years of fighting and countless setbacks, Bharat Lal finally receives an official document declaring him as alive and annulling the earlier record. Ultimately, the truth wins.
The film, despite its laudable attempt at social commentary, is let down by a weak script where cliches overpower the actual story. Nevertheless, in a melee of below-average biopics, Kaagaz can be definitely be appreciated for an inspiring and novel story, with Tripathi delivering yet another powerful performance.
All images are screenshots from the film.