Release Date: February 26, 2016
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao, Ashish Vidyarthi
Director: Hansal Mehta
Genre: Biography, Drama
Duration: 2 hours
Aligarh is based on the real life story of professor Siras (Manoj Bajpayee), who lost his job from Aligarh University and was ostracized by society for his sexual preference. The story is the journey of Siras and rookie journalist Dipu Sebastian (Rajkummar Rao), the only individual who accepts Siras for what he is. While the primary message is decriminalising homosexuality, the film delves into loneliness and companionship, which have been the key elements of the protagonist’s life.
Aligarh will touch your heartstrings, as it is not just a narrative of a real life incident. The film meticulously captures every detail of the ordeal faced by Siras who had to undergo physical and psychological torture, almost every day. The film does not take the melodrama route to garner empathy; rather, it beautifully captures the essence of silence, unspoken words and subtle emotions that the lead characters share between them. There are some great soul-stirring moments in the film, such as the scene where Siras is shown completely immersed in his own world, as he recites poetry in fluent Marathi and listens to melodious songs by Lata Mangeshkar.
Director Hansal Mehta has successfully managed to identify the inner turmoil of Siras and present it in the most subtle manner. For Manoj Bajpayee, this is probably the best role he ever played. He has ensured that he infuses soul into his character by subtly displaying a range of emotions through his tearful eyes, everything from deep melancholy, vulnerability, fear, and angst. Rajkummar Rao has also performed brilliantly; it’s through his eyes that you get to know the finer details about Siras. Credit also goes to the brilliant work done by cinematographer Satya Rai Nagpaul, Karan Kulkarni for his background score, and Apurva Asrani for his heartfelt writing.
As Virginia Woolf, one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century, once said, “The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages”, there’s an urgent need to evolve social mindsets, especially when dealing with matters such as an individual’s sexual preferences. Go for Aligarh to understand the struggles of a lonely man, the essence of true companionship, and a life lived less ordinarily.