Ode to the living dead


Author: Shubha Shetty-Saha
Date: 10/1/2007

Abhishek Bachchan is slated to play Lal Bihari, the UP man who battled for 18 years to be officially declared alive,reports Shubha Shetty-Saha

After Anil Kapoor and Pankaj Kapur's names were tossed around, finally Abhishek Bachchan has been signed by Satish Kaushik to play the title role in his upcoming film Lal Bihari Mritak. It's based on a real story.

It was a scam that reared its ugly head in Uttar Pradesh in the 1970s. Shortage of land, and of course greed, made some people in Uttar Pradesh come up with an ingenious plan. They would declare a family member dead and then bribe officials in the land registry office to get the unsuspecting victims land transferred in their own name. One such victim was Lal Bihari.

In 1976, Bihari realised that his name was listed amongst the deceased and he no longer had any rights over his own property. No amount of trying to prove that he was alive worked with clerks at the office. Bihari then decided to fight back and it took him 18 years to get his life and land back. During this time, he started calling himself 'Mritak' to highlight the ironic situation he was caught in.Bihari made desperate attempts to 'prove' that he was alive - he sought to get arrested, tried to run for Parliament and even kidnapped the son of the man who had stolen his property. But despite threatening murder, insulting judges and even demanding a widow's pension for his wife, he remained officially 'dead' on the records. He finally formed an association called the 'Mritak Sangh', with other people who had been 'declared dead' by the registry office. Bihari was awarded the IG Nobel peace award in 2003.

Lal Bihari's story was featured on the cover of Time magazine a decade ago. Says Satish Kaushik, "Scriptwriting took a while but we will start filming from next month. In the last three years I got so close to Lal Bihari that now his son works with me in my office."

However, when asked to confirm that Abhishek Bachchan is playing the lead, Satish says, "Unless the final papers are signed, I cannot say anything. Wait till next week."

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