Hansal Mehta's gripping human drama 'Aligarh' is a soul-stirring adaptation of a true story which is boundlessly horrifying and gratifying in equal measure. And that's largely because of two reasons: Apurva Asrani has written a thoughtful script, Hansal's camera capturing the most rustic sets and gives them a profound quality, and most important thing: Manoj Bajpayee gives one of his best performances ever. Rajkumar Rao as Deepu Sebastian is good, but his new-age charm can't match the beauty of expression that Bajpayee has mastered. But don't mistake it as India's big leap for a 'gay movie' because it's not a full-blown homosexual drama, and even if it is, it's not mainstream.
But I'll remember 'Aligarh' because it's emotional consistency and brutal wraps to the same have come to stay with me for a long time. The script never fails it's issues and gets many notes right. If there is one flaw with this film it's that it is unbound and a little pretentious towards the second hour. This minor quibble is forgettable. Watch 'Aligarh'. I insist you see it.
It might sound ironic but the truth is though we are in 2016 some of our rules are still so archaic or rather grossly misunderstood. Section 377 is one such law which made headlines over the years as it criminalizes homosexual acts. Though it was decriminalized in 2009, this stance lasted only for a short time. However, about a fortnight back the Supreme Court has referred the plea against it to a 5 judge constitutional bench. It is at this juncture that Hansal Mehta comes with "Aligarh" which is a real life take on the plight of a Prof in Aligarh University who fell victim to this discrimination.
Prof S R Siras (Manoj Bajpai) was the Chair of Modern Indian Languages and taught Marathi at the Aligarh university. On the night of Feb 8th, 2010; he was filmed with a male lover in bed in a sting operation by a local TV channel. The administration lost no time in suspending him as they believed that his homosexual act was immoral & against the rules of the university. It virtually brought his life to a standstill as he was treated like an untouchable or rather an anomaly among the people. On the behest of activists & friends, he engages in a legal battle against the university & wins the verdict in his favour. The film in total gives us a sense as to what he had to go through just coz he was gay.
Hansal Mehta might not quite be a household name but his recent releases have all been highly regarded among the movie connoisseurs be it "Shahid" for which he was awarded the National Award or "Citylights". It's definitely off-beat in nature, but what makes it appealing is that it is realistic in all sense of the word. Even his latest venture "Aligarh" belongs to the same league as it has been brilliantly shot with an impeccable eye for detail. It does focus on the victimization of the protagonist but at the same time also throws light on his loneliness and literary tastes. But the climax ought to have been more impactful & it should have also delved about his family. There is no denying that the film moves at a snail's pace at times which does test our patience, but the powerful performances enables us to tide over it to an extent.
Manoj Bajpai's credentials as an actor is well known & as Prof Sirsa he was absolutely mind blowing. His appearance, body language & pensive expressions were spot on that we are totally hooked to the character. Equally impressive was Rajkummar Rao (who incidentally plays a Malayali & does mouth a few Malayalam dialogues as well) who plays the role of a young, talented and empathic journalist with conviction. Ashish Vidyarthi also deserves praise for his brief role.
Verdict: Due to it's off-beat nature, it's kinda difficult to say whether the people will be encouraged to check it out. I do admit that it gets damn slow paced at times for our comfort but it has some power packed performances which deserve to be watched!!!
One of the best indian films I've ever seen !