Aligarh-movie review

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The movie starts off with Prof Siras getting caught by some people in his house making love with a rickshaw puller. Manoj Bajpayee plays the role of Prof Siras of Aligarh University who has gone for a method acting to showcase the feelings of a person who has been invaded during his privacy without any invitation. Rajkumar Rao plays Dipu Sebastian, a budding journalist, who wants to bring to light the feelings of the professor and what exactly transpired for someone to invade another man’s private moments.


The story goes like this - the professor is accused of immorality within the university campus and so has been suspended. Siras challenges this suspension and wins the case. Sadly, though, he couldn’t enjoy the fruits of the success, because he dies a day before the court order reaches the university to reinstate his suspension. The end credits show that there was poison mixed in the professor’s blood, but the police have ruled out any foul play. Intelligently though, the director showcases that the professor, who is alone in a room, hears some sound and asks who is it – leaving the rest to the audience imagination.


I haven’t watched any of Hansal Mehta’s movies before but he certainly knows how to project some subtle things. Sample this. A colleague of the professor approaches him and asks him to write down a letter stating that he feels ashamed of what happened so that the colleague can submit it to the university authorities and ensure that the matter doesn’t go to the outside world. In this entire scene, the colleague converses without looking into the eyes of the professor. The director shows the human nature here that even though he is the professor’s colleague, he feels ashamed to look into the eyes because the professor is gay.


Later in the movie, when the same letter is used against Siras as an evidence in the court, Manoj goes to his colleague’s house, holds his hand and requests him to help. The colleague, slowly removes the professor’s hand and denies help. His wife looks the professor from the kitchen with a frowning face – feeling bad to have let in a gay person inside their house.


The problem with the movie though, is, it’s way too slow. I understand the director’s vision of showcasing Siras’s mindset during this phase, but I believe that some scenes could have been chopped off. Though it’s just a 2 hour movie, you will feel like watching a 3 hour movie. Manoj has portrayed the role of 64 year old professor with conviction. The scene where he says that he doesn’t understand why the world fits his feelings in a 3 letter word (GAY) makes us feel for him.


Rajkumar Rao’s role is very short, but the problem is with his characterization. May be the director wants the audience to feel that there is a bond developing between the journalist and the professor, but that doesn’t happen. Sample this. Towards the end of the movie, the journalist interviews a woman who has lost her family member and he asks her what happened just like any journalist would ask – without feelings. During this interview process, he sees a SMS on his phone to know that the professor is dead. He feels for the professor and wants to let his feelings out and so he embraces the woman and consoles her and in the process – consoles himself. It’s a beautiful interpretation – no doubt, but there was no base set up earlier to showcase what the journalist had felt about the professor – and so this beautiful scene fails to create the desired impact.


Similarly, there is another scene, where the director has to show the love making scene of professor with the rickshaw puller to the audience. So, he conceives a scene, where the journalist’s boss (a lady) takes him to the terrace of their office building, drinks alcohol and offers to him as well and then out of nowhere, kisses him as well. At this point, just like the journalist, we, as an audience, are also taken back. But then, the director merges their love making scene with the love making scene of the professor. Nice thought, but seemed very forced to me. Just to show the episode of the professor, I felt that the love making scene of the journalist was added, which otherwise had nothing to do with the core plot. In fact, it would have been better off if the director had not showed the professor’s love making scene at all. Instead he could have conveyed the same thing using some other references.


Overall, this movie is not for those impatient set of people who only prefers entertainment. This is for those set of people who are willing to invest their time patiently watching Manoj showcasing his histrionics. On the flip side, with lot of real life stories being made in Hindi (TALVAR, NEERJA, AIRLIFT), I feel why Hansal didn’t opt to make this as an interesting one. Instead, he has opted for the conventional method of direction (in what the layman would term it as “art film”). Even Manoj’s acting was very conventional – like the old school of acting. I don’t have a problem with that, but if you look at the bigger picture, had this same movie being made like say TALVAR, it might have grabbed more audience. I am not asking for any unnecessary masala to be added when conveying a real life story, but I wish this movie was made to keep all section of audience engrossed, because, this is something – like NEERJA – a story to be told.

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