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ALIGARH - Forget about your weekly entertainment and essentially go for this enlightening eye-opener take on life, wherein we keep judging others through our own pre-set notions & biased social norms. (Review By Bobby Sing)
26 Feb, 2016 | Movie Reviews / 2016 Releases / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / A

AligarhThere is a long history of bold and controversial Hindi films made on the subject of homosexuality being opposed and banned even after getting a censor certificate in the past. And the ‘term’ remains a taboo or a hard to accept truth for our society till date, where even the honourable courts have displayed a rare-strange confusion by changing and then re-changing their stand on the same in the last 7 years since the much appreciated favourable verdict of 2009.

Moreover the mainstream Hindi Cinema has largely been a culprit itself for treating and misrepresenting such characters as mere silly, laughable comedians since a couple of decades, making me recall many of the recent films by renowned directors like Karan Johar or Rohit Shetty and even Rahul Rawail’s MAST QALANDER starring Dharmendra in the lead, released way back in 1991, featuring Anupam Kher as a funny, laughable clown-like gay Pinkoo wearing a weird pink coloured wig teasing the people around. To clear the doubts, before the ‘90s they were included as CHARACTERS, but post the ‘90s the writers-directors started including them as CLOWNS or mere COMEDIANS just brought in to raise some silly laughter in the theatre.

No doubt, film-makers like Onir have also delivered a few thought-provoking films too moving far ahead than any of these questionable ventures. But what director Hansal Mehta and his writer-editor Apurva Asrani offer in their much appreciated eye-opener ALIGARH, remains the most realistic and touching portrayal of the subject revealing some brutal truths of our biased, immature society like never before. In fact the film has been released with a perfect timing when the matter is again being re-considered by the courts as required.
However looking at the film from a different angle, it’s not only a brilliant visual documentation of what happened in the life of a ‘homosexual or gay’ character in particular. But it’s actually a shocking and ‘at our face’ representation of the fact that how in our present derailed society instead of focusing on our own growth & progress, we actually get more concerned or rather disturbed about the progress or respect gained by an ‘outsider’, who doesn’t really belong to the same region, religion or language quite shamefully.
Based on the true story of Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a professor of Marathi language in Aligarh Muslim University, the film is about the last tragic part of his life when he got suspended after getting exposed as a homosexual through a video and pictures circulated in the entire city with a purpose. The pictures/video was made by two men barging into his house at night with cameras, forcibly filming him and his male lover friend (a local rickshaw puller) in some compromising positions that later got leaked to the leading newspapers suspiciously.
The professor filed a case against his suspension order and won it too after giving logical justification for his privacy invaded by the people intentionally. But just a few days post the order, Prof. Siras was found dead in his rented house under mysterious circumstances with traces of poison found in his blood raising many unanswered question still haunting the people having lived those tense years in the university.
Yes, this incident occurred 6 years ago in 2010, but it still remains a burning relevant issue in the year 2016 too when ‘homosexuality’ has again been termed as a criminal offence by the court, a decision now being re-considered as mentioned above. Therefore, when even the courts of our country are not sure about the verdict passed earlier, I would like to talk more about the worth cherishing cinematic moments of the film instead, leaving the decision of favouring or not favouring the core-subject of homosexuality at your personal discretion.
The most appreciable beauty of ALIGARH is that the film goes much beyond its basic subject of homosexuality and also superbly explores the equally important sub-plots of middle or old age loneliness, professional jealousy felt for the ‘outsiders’, the ill-treatment faced by even old age bachelors, deliberate violation of a person’s privacy, looking at others through our own pre-set, biased notions and imposing a set social morality on to the people refusing their individual existence in the society due to many visible fears.
Its an important film, as it fearlessly reveals the things as it is without any kind of hiding or opinion forced on to the viewers asking them to take their own decision in the end. ALIGARH looks at the people as humans first without putting them into various categories differentiated on the basis of sexual preferences in particular. Powered with impressive writing, skillful direction and sensitive performances, ALIGARH doesn’t guide you towards anything, but leaves you alone with your own thinking ability to access the happenings as per your individual understanding of life.
Rightly conceived without any usual-mainstream songs, ALIGARH has a commendable background score and cinematography along with a fine editing as required (which might be its weakest part for many due to the slow pace). The film offers worth applauding moments in its both halves and among the best remain the ones where the Professor is deeply involved in his favourite old Hindi film songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar. These 2-3 minutes sequences are certainly going to be cherished the most by middle and old aged friends, personally living exactly similar moments almost daily in the evening while listening to their favourite tracks. Plus many would also smilingly agree to the dialogue wherein the Professor honestly admits that his love for books and Lata Mangeshkar was the big reason for his unsuccessful marriage too. Also the scene where the men are dancing together in an all stag-party remains one of the most subtly visualized sequences of the film besides the lunch scene between the Professor and the investigative journalist chatting in a casual manner.
Unarguably being a performance driven film, ALIGHAR entirely belongs to the immensely talented Manoj Bajpayee, who just transforms himself into the character expressing his inner feelings so truthfully with the drooping shoulders and a whispering voice-tone. It’s yet another career best performance by the gifted actor and particularly his scenes sipping whisky with Lata’s songs running in the background are sure to serve as text-book material for film & acting institutes in the coming years. Ashish Vidyarthi excels as the supportive lawyer along with other playing important small roles (like Professor’s colleague), but its Rajkumar Rao’s charming performance as the friendly journalist that simply adds a lot to the film’s overall impact, particularly in its final hour.
Having said that, I still found a few specific ‘must have’ features missing in the film, that certainly would have made the viewers feel a lot more for the main protagonist from heart post his tragic end.
Firstly, I strongly felt a lot less told in terms of humiliation faced by Professor Siras and the fight for justice in the court that could have provided an engaging pace and much more anger among the viewers thinking from the victim’s point of view.
Secondly, once again we have a typically added ‘kissing or romantic angle’ into the script that simply looked like deliberate or completely off-key in the middle of all seriously threatening events happening in the life of the lonely professor. (Here I would like to give the reference of the recent English film SPOTLIGHT, which also has a similar setting of investigative journalists and newsroom involving females, but it doesn’t even care to show them romantically involved for even a second, remaining completely focused throughout.)
Thirdly and most importantly, being a real life story of an experienced senior professor of a reputed university, I strongly wished to see the supportive or negative response of Professor’s students to the shocking findings in particular. But strangely the film doesn’t give you anything about that crucial aspect of the story at all and we don’t get to know what was Prof. Siras’s mutual relationship with his students and what was the students reaction to the acquisitions and invasion of privacy case filed as all educated, grown-up adults.
Moreover, it was also quite odd to call the university as Aligarh University repeatedly, whereas in reality the institution’s complete name happens to be Aligarh Muslim University. Now was it done knowingly or not, one cannot say, but I do recall noting the mis-quoted name at times while watching the film.
Anyway, despite having the above mentioned essential features missing in the film, ALIGARH still remains a brave, sensitive and heartbreaking expression to be seen as a must to get its right message. And the message is that its time we wake up realizing the fact that the laws we proudly quote in our court trials were actually made in 19th century when we were all slaves of the British, more than 150 years back in 1860s-70s.
Proving the irony, its being reported that the film titled ALIGARH is not being shown in the city of Aligarh itself without having any official ban imposed by the authorities. So the scenario has yet not changed in 2016, which makes it even more important to watch the film at the earliest and think about the tragedy using your own logical deduction instead of the suggested ones.
Rating : 4 / 5 (Including a big 1 for Manoj Bajpayee’s superlative performance as the Professor.)

Tags : Aligarh Movie Review by Bobby Sing, Aligarh Film Review by Bobby Sing, Aligarh on real life events, Realistic Hindi films, Hindi social films on real life happenings, New Bollywood Movies Released, New Hindi Films Reviews, New Hindi Movies Reviews, New Hindi Movies Released, New Bollywood Reviews, Bobby Talks Cinema Review, Reviews By Bobby Sing, New Hindi Films Reviews at bobbytalkscinema.com
26 Feb 2016 / Comments ( 6 )
aniket

Yeah completely agree...the film is tight slap on so called intellectual hypocrite of our society...and as u've mentioned this movie looks at the human first instead of putting them in different categories...!:)
and yeah well written review...thumbs up for that...!:)

Bobby Sing

Thanks Aniket for appreciating the film as well as the review written honestly.
Keep Visiting and Writing in.
Cheers!

Manoranjan Sahu

The movie has shown the neglected people, their life and struggle in a Indian society. Manoj Bajpayee has justified the role. Truly a great artist of Indian cinema.

Bobby Sing

Thanks for visiting and writing in, Manoranjan Sahu.
Cheers!

avik
Simply speechless..

Take a bow Mr. Bajpayee, Mr. Mehta, Rajkumar and the entire team!!

I am soooooo happy to see Manoj sir back in action.. Another "Taandav" indeed
Bobby Sing

Good to see a deserving film being appreciated unanimously.
Thanks for writing in Avik.
Cheers!

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