Kaagaz, directed by Satish Kaushik and produced by Salman Khan, is currently streaming on the ZEE5 OTT platform.
The protagonist of the film, Pankaj Tripathi, plays the role of a man named Bharat Lal Mritak, who is dead on paper despite being alive. The film is based on the real life of Lal Bihari ‘Mritak’, a farmer and activist from Amilo in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, who was officially declared dead between 1975 and 1994.
Though the movie has hit the screens, the real hero is a miffed man. Speaking exclusively to Ewoke TV Editor-in-Chief Sanjay Pandey, Lal Bihari ‘Mritak’ said the director of the movie Satish Kaushik had ‘cheated’ him. On Tuesday, he filed a complaint with the district magistrate, Azamgarh, urging him to direct the police to file an FIR against the film’s director Satish Kaushik for defamation, treason, fraud, untouchability and conspiracy as he snatched away all the rights for the film as well as a book and documentary on his life.
“See I will tell you, I was in talks with Satish Kaushik since 2003. He has released the film in 2021. Almost 18 years have passed. Our bond was made for the purpose of the film but using the agreement, he has snatched away all my rights,” rues Lal Bihari.
Satish Kaushik has taken the rights for the film, as well as a documentary and for a book on his life. “I protested against this. The Constitution does not give the right to anyone to end someone’s life using a Rs 100 stamp paper or use the same to snatch someone’s rights away,” said Lal Bihari.
He said Satish Kaushik had just cheated him. “Why did he have to cheat me when all members of my family have helped him since 2003 in the making of this film? I have written two songs for the movie. One of them is which Sharda Sinha is singing ‘Sarkaar vidhwa banoge…’ The filmmakers have not released that song, yet they have used it as a background score in the movie. The other one is what school kids are singing.”
“I will not say there has been no exchange of money between the two of us. It has happened, but it was only based on mutual trust. The question is not about the money, it is about the trust that he has shattered. I am preparing to file a case against Kaushik now,” he added.
“In the movie, I have been portrayed as a band-bajawala, but in reality, I am the son of a farmer. I work as a weaver of Banarasi sarees. My name is Lal Bihari ‘Mritak’. In the movie, it is Bharat Lal Mritak. I have never been a religious person. During the Shav Yatra, there is a portrayal of saying ‘Sarkari system swaha, judicial system swaha, Vidhan Sabha swaha.’ All this is a sign of disrespect for the nation. The Assembly is like a place of worship for me, they have disrespected it,” he said.
“I have prepared the file. I will lodge a complaint soon. If they have based the character on me, not once I have used disrespectful words like this. I have always respected everyone. I have never fought with a government officer. I have also respected corrupt officers. The question is if I never did this, why has it been done in the movie based on my life?” he said.
Lal Bihari said he was duped into signing an agreement written in English by Satish Kaushik. “They have simply brought disgrace to my name. Belonging to a small village, we don’t even know shuddh Hindi, how would we know English?”
Accusing Kaushik of breaking his trust, Lal Bihari said: “We small town people from the villages trust each other. We never break the trust of each other. The poor man, who may be from any caste, always invests his trust everywhere, which is why he is left high and dry. Those who betray people always become successful, those who trust others are always left behind. Those who respect the law always cry and those who disrespect it always stay happy.”
“When I asked for the agreement on December 20 that is when I came to know about the fraud. When I boycotted the film, I was called to Lucknow, but I did not go. They are not even taking my name now. I know for a fact that the farmer earns, while someone else takes away the credit. The one who struggles, even his struggle is credited to someone else. I fought such a big fight, what did I get in the end? Who is the real hero and who is the fake one? The real one is definitely me and the reel ones are the filmmakers. What did I receive from the society, from Satish Kaushik, from the government? That is the real question,” he concluded.
Kaagaz stars Pankaj Tripathi and Monal Gajjar with Amar Upadhyay, who plays the main antagonist.
Lal Bihari was awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Award in 1993. In 2004, he contested the Lok Sabha elections from Lalganj in Uttar Pradesh.
Five years after he was “reborn”, the Allahabad High Court had ordered the state government to conduct an inquiry into cases like Bihari’s, and put out an advertisement in the newspaper, asking people to come forward if they had been declared “dead”. A year later, the state recorded 90 such cases, and the National Human Rights Commission was roped in to convene hearings on the matter.
Bihari’s story has inspired thousands of people, and through his organisation, he has helped close to 25,000 people across the country.