Director: Hansal Mehta
Cast: Manoj Bajpai / Rajkummar Rao / Ashish Vidyarthi
Written by: Apurva Asrani
I have decided that I won’t talk of stories in my movie reviews! Stories are to be watched, not told when it comes to movies, especially if it’s a movie as fantastic, fabulous, and awesome as Aligarh.
Fire was one movie, as I remember, that brought the context of homosexuality to front in mid 1990s. I did not watch the movie though—we were teenagers and the movie was meant for adults—the revolutionary story where two married women fell in love amidst domineering environment attracted criticism from all around.
Now, when I am turned [hopefully] into a mature human being, I could go and watch the movie that is rated with an A certificate by the censor board (anyway, they did certify Cinderella with an A, for the leading lady shows a slight cleavage throughout the movie, last year!).
The movie Aligarh does talk about homosexuality, but the best about it is when it brings into focus the rights of a ‘common man’ to egalitarianism, to privacy; when it portrays the life of a man who is lonely and vulnerable (he finds company in Lata Mangeshkar’s woeful songs and a glass of wine every evening and he puts three locks on his door); who speaks of poetry as silence and pauses between the lines and of love as a beautiful expression; who shies away when told that he looks handsome by a gentle journalist. Aligarh is a story of the sexagenarian who tries to find occasional joy in the company of a young journalist intern or in a rendezvous with a rickshaw puller of the same sex; who scuffles away his lonesome Mondays by buying groceries and rest of the days by penning poetry himself.
Manoj Bajpai as Professor Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras is nothing but brilliant, spectacular! I have always admired him as an actor, but this is something beyond mere praise. I have fallen in love with him—he is spell-binding in his portrayal of a meek man. His shabby clothes, grey hair and whiskers, sullen cheeks, leather sleepers, and striped blanket compliment the ordinary modest, bachelor professor. Where, his black umbrella, simplistic wooden desk, black sling bag, and folding chair with plastic strips confirms his simple-living-high-thinking mindset in the context that his happiness is not bound on materialistic things rather than internal peace and contentment.
Rajkummar Rao (Dipu Sebastian) as a warm and empathetic popper is perfect in his role (especially at the end when he sneaks away from the sight of the corpse of his beloved, inspiring gay professor) and Ashish Vidyarthi as a legal representative fighting in favour of the victimised Prof Siras, efficaciously makes his point that everyone deserves appreciation irrespective of their race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation [at least, until they are not supporting ‘Bharat ki barbadi’ or setting public property worth billions to fire]!
All in all, Hansal Mehta‘s movie is a MUST WATCH, for its conjuring empathy, riveting moments, gospel performances, and an intellect; for its authenticity and sensitivity (Manoj Bajpai’s teary eyes throughout the movie stir your souls). I loved it for the conscious conversations between Professor Siras and Dipu Sebastian, where they talk about relationships, religion, and poesy. I loved it for Manoj Bajpai’s once-in-a-life-time performance and for the poignant climax. I loved the movie for remarkable cinematography by Satya Rai Nagpaul and aesthetic film editing by Apurva Asrani. I can’t talk about the background musical score, for I was literally captivated in watching none but Professor Siras—nothing else in the movie has the potential of diverting its audience from the protagonist.
Despite being an absolute perfect, I give it 4.5 out of 5, for the first half of the movie occasionally makes you feel twitchy with its deliberate pace.