Just a little after the Supreme Court referred to the curative petition over Section 377 of the IPC, giving a breath of momentary relief to the country’s LGBT community, a film like Aligarh hit the theaters. And mind you, if you thought it was like any other movie portraying the dilemmas and troubles of homosexuals in conservative Indian society, it might just give you a pleasant surprise. Calling it the most honest film on the subject, truly justifying the real situations people face, with a convincing representation of their stories, won’t be wrong.
Aligarh starring Manoj Bajpai and Rajkummar Rao received a standing ovation following its screening at the 20th Busan International Film Festival. It even garnered applause at several other international platforms. And this is not just because of the powerful performances by the actors, or the aesthetics director Hansal Mehta shows towards handling the sensitive subject, but because it has managed to touch hearts leaving an imprint for a long time.
Aligarh is based on the real-life story of homosexual Marathi professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras of Aligarh Muslim University, played by amazing actor Manoj Bajpai. National Award winning actor Rajkummar essays the role of Deepu Sebastian, the journalist who explores Manoj’s life and becomes his strength in his fight, even as Siras continues his struggle of survival on a daily basis.
So what makes the film special? Those who have watched it would know.
1. Amid other biopics, this one is different. It does not hail the achievements of a hero, but his hardships and agony fighting against the system. The story of Siras, who became a victim of a sting operation, and was later suspended on grounds of morality, will touch every chord of your hearts.
2. Hansal Mehta, known for his sensitive cinema like Shahid and Citylights, takes yet another subject. He gives a strong message of advocating the right to privacy and equality. Hansal keeps the narration simple yet compelling. He refrains from heavy dialogues and lets the silence of Siras do most of the talking. The solitude of his character speaks volumes.
“Kavita shabdon ke beech ki khaamoshi mein hoti hai. Har koi umr aur paristhitee ke hisaab se uska matlab nikalta hai.”
3. Both Manoj and Rajkummar deserve equal praise. Manoj keeps raising the bar with every film, proving he is one of the finest actors we have right now. This one is his career’s best. Justifying the aging Siras with those drooping shoulders, he gives a spell-binding performance with an equal dose of warmth, love and pain. Can you believe he is the same one who played Sardar Khan in Gangs Of Wasseypur? And giving him a push is Rajkummar. He slips into his difficult role with ease. His passion towards making a mark in his profession is evident. However, the transition of the two from strangers to friendship, and ultimately to two people becoming each other’s confidants, is smooth and natural.
4. Aligarh breaks the stereotypical portrayal of gays in Bollywood. Unlike the loud, floral-loving homosexuals, the film very sensitively champions their cause. It digs deep into our psyche and tells us why those falling under the LGBT umbrella are regular, normal people whose feelings and emotions need to be understood, and why the social prejudices against them need to go. Only after watching it will you know why they need to be treated just as straight people in both Indian films and in real life.
5. Considering the makers of the film struggled enough, refusing to give in to the censor board and its objections against several portions of its content, this film needs a chance. The film’s ‘A’ certificate hadn’t gone down well with Hansal. If his fight has been this tough to maintain his stand on what he wishes to deliver, it is the audiences’ duty to watch the film before passing a judgment. Aren’t we happy that Bollywood is finally breaking free?
Aligarh should not be missed.