Aligarh Hindi Movie Review

Feb 25, 2016 By Manisha Lakhe

A quiet cold night in suburban Aligarh is pierced by the thud of a baton against skin and we realise that the quiet man who was humming a song not too long ago on the rickshaw is professor Srinivas Siras, head of the department of languages at Aligarh Muslim University, has just been beaten and his homosexual act has been videotaped.


The news is everywhere and a young journalist called Deepu Sebastian (Rajkummar Rao) from Delhi travels to Aligarh, knowing that there's something wrong when a TV crew just barges into someone's home to beat and humiliate the 63 year old professor. Professor Siras is suspended and the students are against the 'immorality'.


The film is about how the journalist manages to get through to the quiet professor and reveal his loneliness and suffering. The more the professor talks, the more we realise how humbly, how quietly the man has lived. 'How can a three lettered word, describe that deep longing inside me? How can it describe me?'


Activists persuade him to fight this illegal suspension in court. He agrees, only because he is told his case would be for the greater good. His disinterest in the court proceedings is delightful.


Also delightful is how Marathi Manoj Bajpayee sounds in the movie. He is so convincing with his turn of phrase, 'baba re' and 'very much confusing' that you begin to think he is Marathi. To top it all, he sings a beautiful Marathi 'bhaavgeet' (literally translated, it means a geet, a song with emotions) that is originally sung by Asha Bhosle. And when he sings, you need to just look at him and his rendition will leave your heart waiting to burst out of its cage. The meaning of the song is beautiful, and the subtitles explain: 'I am lost, my sakhi, lost in Him... This morning in an encounter with Krishna, I lost my everything to him...'


This sense of loss, is so beautifully shown by the actor throughout the movie that even those who are not comfortable around homosexual people (and it is a shame that such people exist) cannot not be moved.


Not to be forgotten, Rajkummar Rao is really good as a gentle but persistent journalist who thinks Professor Siras's story is more human interest than just a scandal. Ashish Vidyarthi as the lawyer who defends the professor does a wonderful job as well. But there's only a shrieky woman lawyer and four silent professors who are the all-powerful enemy, and they are weakest link of the movie. Their outraged morality logic does not come across as menacing at all. The fact that they manipulated the system, that they paid the tv crew to do the 'dirty', does not come across, rendering the enemy weak. But every flaw goes unnoticed because of Manoj Bajpayee's superlative performance. He makes you smile, feel elated, lost, alone, and sad and you bring it all back home... hoping some of the ancient laws will change some day soon.

A professor of Marathi in Aligarh University is forced to resign after being humiliated for being gay. This is his story, sensitively told and brilliantly delivered by Manoj Bajpai and supported by Rajkummar Rao.
Rating: 8.3 / 10
Manisha Lakhe

   

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