Director Hansal Mehta's Aligarh is a human rights story that reveals the plight of homosexuals in conservative Indian society. It is a tapestry of a compelling drama, enveloped between the two historical verdicts, the Delhi High Court first decriminalising and thenthe Supreme Court restoring criminalising Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
It is the true story of Dr. S.R. Siras, a professor of Marathi
and the head of the Classical Modern Indian Languages Faculty at
the famed Aligarh University, who was suspended on grounds of
Director: Hansal Mehta
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkumar Rao, Ashish
Vidyarthi and Delnaaz Irani
The film starts with the inciting moment when the professor's
privacy is invaded by some miscreants who forcibly enter his house
and film him sharing intimate moments with a
What keeps you glued to the screen is the focused narrative and
the natural performances, that give you a glimpse into the life of
Writers Ishani Banerjee and Apurva Israni have ensured that
there is nothing unwarranted and no unnecessary titillation, given
the sensitive subject. They have cleverly incorporated the track of
Deepu Sebastian, a journalist from Delhi working for the Indian
Post, to propel the narrative.
Manoj Bajpayee essays the role of the victimised, shy and
unassuming professor to perfection, who is forced to fight his
battle, singlehandedly. With his gait, speech and underplayed
histrionics, Manoj is the character, you would believe in. The
silences in his performance and vulnerability in his eyes, are used
by him effectively to convey his anguish and loneliness.
The two Lata Mangeshkar songs, "Aap ki nazaron ne samjha pyaar
ke kabil mujhe" and "Betaab dil ki tamanna yahi hai", woven
dexterously into the script, encapsulate Dr. Siras' solitude and
his desire to be loved. The way he passionately hums the song makes
you reach out to him.
Rajkummar Rao as Deepu Sebastian, is lithe and natural. He plays
the effervescent and enthusiastic Malayali journalist settled in
Delhi with ease and the bond he forges with the professor seems
genuine. Unfortunately, his character does not delve into why he
gets attracted to the case and hence the track seems forced when he
insists, "you have to fight it out, Mr. Siras".
The lip-lock between Deepu and Namita, his reporting head played
by Delnaaz Irani, reveals the progressive India, thus, bringing out
the sharp contrast of the orthodox Indian society, otherwise
portrayed in the film.
Ashish Vidyarthi, as the lawyer fighting Siras's case,
unfortunately lacks the punch.
Mounted with moderate production values, Satya Rai Nagpaul's
camera work is steady and remarkable. His frames are realistic.
With his wide angle lenses and tight close-ups, he artistically
captures the claustrophobic space and the fine nuances of Manoj's
Karan Kulkarni's soulful background score is well-layered in the
narration. There are a few edit jerks in Apurva Asrani's editing
but this could probably be due to censor issues.
Overall, Hansal Mehta's direction touches a raw nerve and makes
you embrace the film wholeheartedly.
Aligarh is based on real life incidents that makes it a compelling watch. The actors have given their career best performances and the story is so touching and inspiring! All in all, Aligarh is a must watch!