Add Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh to
the growing list of true stories that are being dramatised by Hindi cinema to
make an important statement.
Prof Ramchandra Siras from Maharashtra who heads the Linguistics
Department, is the obvious odd man out in Aligarh University. He’s also single
with his sexuality under scrutiny, making Siras the unacceptable outsider.
The deep-rooted resentment against him comes to the fore when a sting
operation is conducted on him inside his own apartment. Ostensibly, he’s been
filmed pants down with a rickshaw puller.
Other faculty members and the media are so conveniently nearby to catch the
action that their collective role in the sting is quite suspect. Perhaps the
rickshawala too, was a willing partner in what has the hallmarks of a classic conspiracy.
Using Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises same-sex
intimacy, Prof Siras is charged with immoral conduct and is ousted out of the
Siras does have friends. Like colleague Shridharan. Or lawyer Vijay
Grover who fights against the invasion of Prof Siras’ privacy. Most of all,
there’s intrepid young Keralite Deepu Sebastian whose reporter’s nose tells him
that this story is more than just a sex scandal.
So when, just before a High Court verdict in his favour, Siras is found
dead, the questions are more disturbing than his life itself.
Why was it ruled as suicide? There wasn’t even a whiff of such an
intention in his cheerful last telephonic conversation with his
journalist-friend. He’d even hinted to Deepu that after retirement, he’d
perhaps head for America where men like him could live with dignity. Therefore,
how Prof Siras died will remain unanswered forever although why he had to die
is not such an unresolvable puzzle.
Aligarh is not flawless cinema. There’s an unnecessary track
to establish that Deepu is a heterosexual. Hansal Mehta likes his little sexual
innuendoes about “Little Johnny” and “Jaago
Mohan pyare...” And were selfies popular in 2010?
But Aligarh is impactful
cinema as it forces a revisit to antiquated laws. It would also be pertinent to
note that mixing issues to play politics on the campus is not a 2016
Aligarh is equally compelling because of Manoj Bajpayee who
makes a stellar Prof Siras. Watch him as he seeks solace in “Aapki nazron ne samjha”, particularly in
the poignant line, “Ji hamein manzoor
hai aapka ye faisla”, and this rates a repeat watch. Rajkummar Rao has a
smaller and less nuanced role as Deepu Sebastian but once again, this actor
doesn’t let you down in any scene.
For making an important cinematic statement and for outstanding
competence in the acting department, Aligarh
gets a 3* rating.
Reviewed bySenior Journalist & Author
Bharathi S Pradhan