Movie Review : Aligarh (2016)

Rating : 3.7/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 1 hour 54 minutes
Director : Hansal Mehta
Cast : Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkumar Rao, Sumit Gulati
Kid rating: PG-17

Aligarh leaves an impression. Days after watching it, I still remember Manoj Bajpayee’s anguish. The film is based on a real life incident, and about Professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras who taught Marathi at Aligarh Muslim University. Professor Siras was also gay, and was outed forcibly one night in a sting operation conducted by some journalists.

Once the “scandal” breaks, all hell lets loose. The protectors of “morality” demand Siras’s resignation. Siras faces hostility, and is let go by AMU. He is hounded wherever he goes. His case catches the attention of fledgling journalist Deepu Sebastian (Rajkummar Rao), who helps Siras find redress.

Bajpayee is fabulous as Siras; a slightly abrasive introvert of a man, who likes a drink in the evening to the accompaniment of music, in the peace and solitude of his own home. He isn’t the picture of conviviality, but so be it. We feel for Siras when we see him humiliated, his life in tatters, harassed by the culture police and then by the state itself. Kudos to Bajpayee for his moving portrayal of Siras. Rajkummar Rao (whom I last saw in Shahid) too makes the film better just by being in it, so accomplished is he. I wish he was in every film I saw.

Siras is a single man, peaceably living his life. The film does not portray him as a person without flaws; he does have his own imperfections, biases and frailties just like the rest of us. Without overt dramatics, Aligarh beautifully brings to the fore the real problem: what happens when an individual lives his life as he sees fits, not harming anyone, but is still forcibly strung out for all to flay for his personal choices?

Kidwise: Probably not appropriate for younger kids. There is one scene between Siras and his lover, but it doesn’t get too explicit.

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