KawKaw Rating: 4/5
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao, Ashish Vidyarthi
Homosexuality is an issue not often discussed in India. But of late it has been in media quite a lot especially since 2010 when the Delhi High Court read down the controversial section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which seeks to criminalize same sex acts and then in 2013 when the same was overturned by the Supreme Court of India. While homosexuality his being accepted increasingly across the world, India somehow lags behind in this respect. Now Hansal Mehta has come up with a heart touching film on a real life character to show the daily harassment and humiliation that a gay man has to go through in this country.
Aligarh talks about Professor Siras and how he was hounded when he was caught having sex with another man. In the film Aligarh, Manoj Bajpayee plays the role of Prof Siras while role of Deepu Sebastian the journalist who broke the story, is played by Rajkumar Rao.
Even before its release, the film has had its share of controversies when it was given an A certificate by the censor board and Hansal Mehta and censor chief Pahlaj Nihalani engaged in a public tu-tu main-main. Nihalani’s argument, howsoever idiotic it was, was that homosexuality is not a subject children should be exposed to. But we can vouch that the film does NOT promote homosexuality. It instead talks about human rights, right to privacy and equality as well as democracy including gays.
Anyways, let’s come back to the film. Manoj Bajpayee perfectly plays the role of a lonely and shy man who loves his university and his whiskey at home. He lives a pretty much lone life, only to be broken by a local TV journalist who breaks into his room to film him during his sexual encounter with a rickshaw puller at the behest of his colleagues. Caught in the web of jealousy and lies after getting promoted as the head of department, one dialogue in the film perfectly sums up Siras’s predicament, “Bahar ka admi mana jata hu, Shadishuda logo ke beech akela rehta hu, Urdu bolne wale sheher mein Marathi seekhata hun (I’m considered an outsider, I live alone among married couples, and I teach Marathi in an Urdu speaking community).” Just as it happens in India, university refuses to stand by Siras and takes action against him by expelling him from the campus he so loved.
The best thing about this film and also the thing that separates it from other such movies is the fact that it portraits Siras’s life and the injustice done to him without any hard hitting dialogues. It’s almost like watching a silent movie given the loud dialogues that one gets to hear these days in most of the films. The story is narrated beautifully by the director backed up by some really strong performance by Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkumar Rao.
As far as the issue of homosexuality is concerned, the film successfully tackles it and brings out the human side to the issue. Full marks to Hansal Mehta for Aligarh.
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