It is joyful indeed that Aligarh released in the small town I live in. So without further ado I set off with my mother to watch it. Wipe off that disbelieving expression of your face, please. I have made her watch Angry Indian Goddesses too. It was a time before solo movie watching became the thing to do.
Prof. Siras is a shy man, who dedicated his life to teaching a language. He was thrown out of the university because of his sexual orientation. A man who has served the university all his life is treated with so much disrespect and disdain when only three months remained for his retirement is heartbreaking. He was not given a chance to explain himself and a charge-sheet was filed against him without an inquiry. Why should a section of people not be allowed to live their lives and be discriminated against be ostracized or live in fear of being outed because of their sexual preference as long it is consensual, is beyond my understanding.
Rajkumar Rao plays Deepu, a journalist in the film. He lights up the screen when he’s around and, no he does not always do weepy films as a friend pointed out the other day. The movie shows how journalistic stories should be done. With sensitivity. It is not only about the scoop. These are real people whose stories are being told so you might as well have some compassion or choose another profession. News sensationalism is subtly noted. In a scene Arnab Goswami’s show is running in the background and Siras was asked to sit in front of the camera but the debate rages on without his inputs. He is bewildered by the media circus. A shy, quiet man who loved language and found poetry in the messiness of everyday life thrust into the limelight for all the wrong reasons is a sad thing.
Prof. Siras, who writes poetry, says this in response to Deepu when he says he doesn’t understand poetry.
Poetry is not in the words but in the silences, the pauses between the words.
The film is a commentary on our hypocritical society which allows men to visit prostitutes when they are married but a consensual act between two adults is termed immoral because it is homosexual in nature.
The loneliness of the professor is haunting. Manoj Bajpayee has become Siras. Aligarh surprised me with its tenderness. The long takes made the scenes real; as if you are not watching someone act but seeing a real person which is brilliant because it is based on a true story. It unnerves you. Team Aligarh should take a bow for this wonderful film. Hansal Mehta’s film is real but never melodramatic. It is a film where the quiet scenes are the most devastating.
While returning home my mother asked why did he kill himself after fighting for his rights? We don’t know if he killed himself or was killed. There was poison in his system but the police refused to conduct an inquiry. His life would never be what he wanted it to be. A life with no respect or dignity. He had thought of going to America to start a new life but later on must have realized the futility of that dream.