It is allowed for filmmakers to pay tribute to auteur directors. It is not acceptable for filmmakers to perform a travesty on a classic. Based on a love triangle between husband, wife and the mistress; Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) explored the depths of human emotions and foregrounded a scathing critique of the society that serenades to the tunes of success only. The deliberate narrative style, detailed framing and impeccable acting only added to Dutt’s accolades. On the other hand, the overarching ambitions and misjudged talents of a few filmmakers, Kaagaz Ke Fools exposes the debilitating craft and creativity in the industry foregrounding a self-embarrassing reality of a yet-to-mature Bollywood.
An honest and ideal writer Purshottam Chaturvedi (Vinay Pathak) is struggling to get his novel published while he doubles up as a copy writer to earn a living. Obsessed with fame and material success, his wife Nikki (Mugdha Ghodse) nags the husband about his lack of ambition and drives him away. Purshottam soon finds himself entering into the dens of lust and vice and the plot further complicates itself with the entry of the ‘other’ woman Rubina (Raima Sen). The climax revolves around the moral dilemma confronting the protagonist who justifies his name by choosing to do the right thing.
The filmmakers have assumed that a low budget film equals to a low quality film. For those who are exposed to Marathi film industry that manages to imagine impactful cinema on a shoestring budget; it is pure vanity to assume that the Bollywood audience would forgive fools who dared to produce Kaagaz Ke Fools. There is a constant allusion to William Shakespeare’s iconic character Lady Macbeth to metaphorically compare Nikki’s ambitions for her husband. A sleazy but successful writer friend Vinod (Amit Behl) compares his depressed friend Purshottam to Dutt ‘jo din mein hi pyaasa ho gaya’ (who wants to quench his thirst in the day itself). The fact that the filmmakers are aware of great literature and films makes it even more tragic for the audience to see the depths of deplorable cinema roll before them.
Like its predecessor, Anil Kumar Chaudhury’s Kaagaz Ke Fools does show an intention to capture the angst of an artist who has to live with his ideals in a world infested with mediocrity and superfluous success. However, instead of driving the theme home to the audience, the film raises far more significant questions in the minds of its viewers: If the story was readily picked up from the 1959 version, what exactly did the filmmakers work on? How did the filmmakers forget to write a script before shooting? Why does a film screened in theater look like a home video upload on YouTube? Why do the scenes resemble impromptu exercises from an acting class for amateurs?
The genre of Kaagaz Ke Fools reads as satirical comedy. Surely, the filmmakers have given the world a new subject for satire – the film itself. That is if enough people care enough to see the film in the first place!