Satish Kaushik’s Kaagaz explores a very Indian story: living people are declared dead by their relatives to deny them their share of the family property. In the Zee5 original film Kaagaz, musician Bharat (Pankaj Tripathi) finds himself added to the ranks of the living dead by his family. Bharat runs around for years in search of a piece of paper that will confirm that he is a flesh-and-blood person rather than a corpse.

Government documents never lie, an official confidently tells Bharat. Being “dead” makes Bharat the butt of jokes as well as a living nightmare. His quest to be declared alive is marked by occasionally farcical comedy. He resorts to increasingly desperate efforts to get himself noticed just so that he may be reflected in an official record. Bharat gets some help from a politician (Mita Vashisht) and a lawyer (Satish Kaushik), but he is mostly alone in his struggle.

The 109-minute movie begins in the pre-Aadhar 1970s, and has been inspired by the real-life experiences of Lal Bihari Mritak, a farmer from Uttar Pradesh who formed an organisation of similarly undead people. The narrative milks its potential for black humour to the last drop, but suffers from inconsistent pacing and poorly sketched characters. Only Pankaj Tripathi, in brownface, and Satish Kaushik, make an impact in a movie that starts promisingly but eventually loses its thread.

Kaagaz (2021).