Rating: 4/5 Stars (Four stars)
Star Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao
Director: Hansal Mehta
What’s Good: Manoj Bajpayee’s stellar performance clubbed with an intelligent filmmaking by Hansal Mehta and the heart-wrenching writing of Apurva Asrani.
What’s Bad: Only the helplessness one feels post watching this film for the LGBT community.
Loo Break: None!
Professor Srinivas Siras (Manoj Bajpayee) is the head of the modern Indian languages institute at the famed Aligarh University. He is the only Marathi teaching professor in the entire university and claims that with immense pride. One night, two reporters and four professors barge into Siras’ first floor apartment and record his intimate moments with a Muslim autowala. It is a shocking and embarrassing moment for professor Siras whose privacy is invaded shamelessly.
Coming to the conclusion that homosexuality will not be tolerated at the institution, the professor is suspended the next day. What’s more apathetic from the university’s side is the fact that they feel no shame in approaching the media and releasing the tape.
Grabbing the headlines on all major news sources, Siras’ story catches the eye of a budding journalist, Deepu Sebastin (Rajkummar Rao). Convincing his editor that Siras’ tale is more of a human interest story than just a report, Deepu becomes an important character who helps Siras open up and introduce us to his version of the story.
Approaching the court for his suspension which is against the law that decriminalizes homosexuality, will Siras win at the court of law and will the society be able to see him beyond his sexual preference is what the story is about.
Aligarh Review: Script Analysis
Interestingly, due to some technical issue the screening of the movie was delayed by an hour. While a lot of us were getting restless over the delay, after the film got over, it got me thinking how bad any kind of ‘delay’ is. I mean if we can get impatient over a movie delay, can you imagine the plight of someone who has to wait for a decision of the court to actually move around freely, express their love and indulge in lustful acts without any fear. Yes, that’s the kind of things Aligarh will make you ponder over.
Apurva Asrani builds a tale around a commoner and the best part being that it is someone like professor Siras who doesn’t even know that you call someone he/she ‘Is gay’ instead of ‘Is a gay’. He knows that he enjoys sexual relations with men but doesn’t feel the need to term that relation as a ‘homosexual act’ or even a ‘love affair’.
The film skillfully sucks you into its character’s nuances. Siras is seen enjoying a drink with Lata Mangeshkar songs in more than two scenes and one must realize it is a powerful scene because that is one moment where he is himself, holed up at home, without the fear of any kind of judgement.
Another gem in the film would be Siras’ poem that has enough of implied meaning regarding his life. This film speaks more in its silences than the dialogues and that’s where it appeals the most.
Aligarh Review: Star Performance
Manoj Bajpayee has time and again showed how great an actor he is and with Aligarh he leaves you spellbound, I mean what a performer. As professor Siras, he brings his emotional best. Hats off to him for pulling off that love making scene as well as the entire ‘caught in the act’ scene. It is hard not to feel for his character.
Rajkummar Rao as the young journalist does a fine job too. He picks up a South Indian accent and gives a brilliant emotional scene in the climax.
Ashish Vidyarthi plays the character of Siras’ lawyer and is a perfect fit for his role.
Aligarh Review: Music, Direction
Aligarh University is known for its magnificent campus. In one of the scenes we are even shown why the university had once been special for imparting and encouraging a scientific outlook for its Indian Muslim students.
Capturing this lost spirit of the university that now does not even respect the privacy of its faculty members and has fallen prey to internal politics, we see another side of it altogether. The dim lighting in Siras’ house is enough to tell how being an ‘in the closet’ person feels like.
Siras’ case being a ‘framed’ process to not only defame him in public but also to suspend him from his post is quite clearly presented in the film. Also, how in spite of Delhi High Court’s 2009 judgement to decriminalize homosexual acts is infamously ignored by a prestigious university when taking a decision against their own employee.
One of the most powerful scene in the film remains when Deepu’s character is seen making out on a terrace with his female boss. It clearly shows how biased the society is and what ‘equality’ truly means according to our constitution. A man and a woman can indulge in physical acts openly but unfortunately homosexuality is a crime. Another gem in the film is a scene where Deepu asks professor Siras if Irfan (the autowala) is his lover and Siras’ reply that he is making love sound like a ‘dirty’ word when it is a precious feeling.
Aligarh Review: The Last Word
Aligarh is an experience more than a film. I call it an experience because it makes one ponder over their blessed lives and how ignorant we are towards the plight of the LGBT community. It is a gem studded with a noteworthy performance by Manoj Bajpayee. I would go with a 4/5 for this film.
Aligarh releases on 26th February, 2016.
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