It is not very often that movies like Aligarh are made. Hats off to Hansal Mehta and Apurva Asrani for creating a beautiful movie like this, and to Manoj Bajpai and Rajkumar Rao for executing it so beautifully!
Directed by: Hansal Mehta
Produced by: Sunil Lulla and Sailesh R. Singh
Written by: Apurva Asrani
Starring: Manoj Bajpai, Rajkumar Rao and Ashish Vidyarthi
Music by: Karan Kulkarni
Production Company: Eros Entertainment and Karma Pictures
Release date: 26th February, 2016
Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh will touch your heart to the core, the plot of which revolves around Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras (Manoj Bajpai) who taught Marathi at Aligarh Muslim University (I like how, throughout the movie, the university was just called Aligarh University, in oder to avoid chaos). He was sacked from his position of Reader and Chair of Modern Indian Languages, on charges of homosexuality. A sting operation was conducted by a TV channel which showed him in an embrace with a rickshaw puller, at his house inside the campus. Deepu Sebastian (Rajkumar Rao) calls this a human story and helps in providing justice to Dr Siras.
I usually keep the best thing for the last, but for this one, I’ll start with the best element of the movie, Manoj Bajpai. He is effortlessly beautiful. He does not perform his art, he is art, a personification of art! He knows exactly when to deliver his dialogues, when to look into the eyes, when to create the magic. All his efforts on screen, actually seem effortless. He plays a year old gay character, though he doesn’t want to be labelled because he believes in the beauty of emotions and not just words. His character is not at all flawed. He is a general man, in normal clothes, with common ambitions. He takes pride in AU being in the top three universities in the country, writes poems, drinks some whiskey and loses himself into the beautiful voice of Lata Mangneshkar. He is caught in a swarm of jealousy after being promoted and he explains the mess he is in by saying “Bahar ka admi mana jata hu, shadishuda logo ke beech akela rehta hu, Urdu bolne wale sheher mei Marathi sikhata hu.” No matter how content he is in his life, he seems insecure, hence the three locks on the door. You can find his character uninterested in the court proceedings of his own case, so don’t worry if you see him reading poems or even sleeping. He is a lot in pain, just because of his mere sexual preferences. Manoj Bajpai has delivered beautiful performances in his earlier movies, but his performance in Aligarh is is career best! He plays Siras with perfect ease, the perfect amount of despair and hope! My favorite part was when Deepu takes a selfie with Siras, Siras, on seeing the picture says that he isn’t looking good, to which Deepu replies that he always looks good. The next moment is precious. The way Manoj Bajpai blushes at that very moment is heart breaking!
Rajkumar Rao, in his role as a journalist is outstanding. He has a very high bar (Manoj Bajpai) to match and he manages to do that, not effortlessly though! Deepu’s passion to make a difference can be seen in Rao’s eyes.
And the chemistry between the two is outstanding!
Other actors with small parts, Ashish Vidyarthi, Dilnaz Irani and even the old land-lady are played intelligently!
Coming to the writing and direction, I think it is out of this world. It is just February, but I can say that Aligarh will probably be the best film of the year. You may find the direction a bit slow, but it is actually not slow. Those are dramatic pauses. There is a 3-minute scene in the film where a Lata Mangneshkar song is playing and Siras is just enjoying the song with a glass of whiskey. His hands and feet moving with the tunes. Now here, people think that giving three minutes to this is a waste of time, but trust me, it was needed. It was needed to make the viewer understand the emotions that Siras goes through and how he finds solace in Lata Ji’s voice. There are no iconic dialogues, just small and normal dialogues here and there by the characters, which, obviously, create an impact. Mehta knows exactly how to move the cameras. He has mastered that art over his range of critically acclaimed films. Characterization of the characters in this film was pretty important, and Asrani has left no stone un-turned in that process. The characters of both Siras and Deepu are edgily created, one complimenting the other!
For the first time, I literally made notes on my phone of all the scenes/instances I particularly liked and thought were pretty dramatic. Some of them being:
- Reference to insignificant matters such as mosquito bites.
- The mention of HORRIBLE SAREE.
- The doctor not seeing to Siras just because he is homosexual.
- Importance of AU and how it has changed over time due to politics.
- Importance of silence in poetry.
- Linguistic differences in India.
- Children not judging.
- Fight between what is moral/ethical and what is not.
- Siras’ desire to live in America.
- Continuous tears in Siras’ eyes that depict his pain.
All in all, I would just say that if you plan on missing out on Aligarh just because it is not mainstream cinema and is artsy, don’t! It is a movie that will touch your heart and tell you straight into the face that you’re doing something wrong!
My Rating: 4.8/5
And a word more, can we stop pretending that we don’t know? All of us know that homosexuality exists in our country and it is wrong to criminalize it and yet people are quiet. Just by supporting homosexuality, you do not become a homosexual. Stop being scared of the society. Speak Up! Just because a man has the right to love a woman and vice versa, it doesn’t mean that a man can’t love a man, a woman can’t love a woman. It is their freedom of choice, this is what democracy is about!