When it comes to the Indian Film Industry, it is always heartening to see movies that are bold and progressive in their ideas and in their aspiration to break societal stigmas. From the very moment we came across the preview for Aligarh, our interest was piqued. The subject had the potential to shape the attitude of an entire generation towards a concept that is hardly understood and is strongly opposed.
Directed by Hansal Mehta, Aligarh is a biographical drama on the life of Prof. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras (played by Manoj Bajpayee) who was unfairly sacked from his position of Reader and Chairman of Modern Indian Languages in Aligarh University after falling prey to a highly controversial sting operation. Even after stripping him off his duties, he fell further into disrepute owing to systematic leaks into the press and media, perpetrated ‘allegedly’ by the heads of the University to forward their political aspirations by removing Siras from the esteemed Chair. And all this took place even when Delhi Court had decriminalised Homosexuality by deeming Section 377 as unconstitutional and it was within the legal rights of any individual to follow his/her sexual preference.
Bajpayee’s portrayal of a depressed man who is being hounded by the media and who is hiding from the world like a common criminal for no fault of his own, is intense and shows you the plight of a human being who has been ostracised just ‘cause he has a different sexual preference than the average person. The unlawful sting that was carried out on him, makes you wonder if a citizen should be stripped off of all his fundamental rights to privacy for something which is against what we ‘like’ or ‘prefer’. Should the fundamental rights of a left-handed person be taken away just because most of us are right-handed ? The scene where Bajpayee drowns his loneliness with alcohol while listening to Lata Mangeshkar’s “Aapki nazron ne samjha pyaar ke kabil mujhe” touches your soul. The deep, suppressed humiliation and shame fleets across his face as he sits on the chair with drooped shoulders which seem to have given up on life. Even if you are someone who does not approve of this subject, this particular scene will surely affect you in some way.
In times such as this, more often than not crusaders are born and a journalist from the India Post called Deepu Sebastian (played by Rajkumar Rao) was one for Siras. Among the hordes of TRP hungry media, he was the only one who felt that it was unfair how the sting operation was conducted on Siras and how his privacy was unconstitutionally violated. Although Rao was projected to be a strong and confident journalist, his act seemed a tad too forced in some scenes. There were a few scenes where Rao’s humour was badly placed against the mood of that moment, which we would attribute to bad direction. After his phenomenal performance in Shahid and Citylights, we somehow expected a more measured portayal of a feisty journalist from him.
Aligarh, although being a balanced treatment on the subject of Homosexuality and Human rights, is strangely riddled with a silly oversight. For instance, as Siras’s age is announced in one of his court trials as 64, we are taken aback as he clearly did not look that old. 46 yes, but definitely not 64 (you can judge it yourself just from the trailers). Although this is an insignificant error, it hampers the authenticity and characterisation of the story.
Anyway, keeping trivials aside – Aligarh is one the most progressive films in recent times. Especially when Section 377 has once again been upheld, this film would serve as the window to this unfair law which threatens to isolate a community into a dark recess. This makes you realise that this law is not only fascist but also a blatant violation of basic human rights. Aligarh is a reminder of the echoing ‘intolerance’ that has found its way into our everyday vocabulary. This is just one facet of a thousand. It is for directors like Hansal Mehta to bring them forward and encourage discussion, hopefully in a direction which would free us from such regressive stigma.
gobblpoint: Manoj Bajpayee is someone who commands respect in every character he undertakes and he truly deserves it. Watch it, also, to educate yourself on a subject about which you would never normally talk to anyone.
Disclaimer: The image used in this blog is the sole property of the makers of this film and is not owned by us in any form whatsoever.