Aligarh Movie Review: Stellar Performances, Sincere Treatment
The timing of the film's release could not have been better- at a time when homosexuality has been considered illegal by the Indian judiciary and words like intolerance and human rights are on everyone's lips, Aligarh is the right movie at the right time for the Indian audience.
Based on true events, the film deals with the struggles of Professor Siras (Manoj Bajpayee), who is terminated from service by the Aligarh University authorities when some staffers barge into his house and catch him with his pants down (literally speaking) with another man.
Even as Siras, who is considered an outsider in Aligarh because of his bachelor status and the subject that he teaches (Marathi), struggles to maintain his sanity amidst the constant media glare and the public scrutiny, he finds an unlikely friend in Deepu (Rajkummar Rao), an idealistic cub reporter, who wishes to share the professor's story with the world and fight for him.
Manoj Bajpayee, who became an overnight star with his portrayal of uncouth Maharashtrian gangster Bhiku Mhatre in Ram Gopal Varma's cult classic Satya, delivers another powerful performance as Professor Siras.
Bajpayee speaks volumes with his eyes and his pauses and puts in so much depth and dignity in his character that one cannot imagine any other actor pulling off the role. The actor has given the role everything he had and he will surely bring a lump to everyone's throats with his performance. The aura of loneliness and vulnerability that he has projected, is a treat to watch and will stay etched in your mind for a long, long time.
On his part, Rao, who plays the idealistic reporter, too has done justice to his role and has proved that he is a force to be reckoned with. His mature idealism juxtaposed with his childlike curiosity and reactions at times (In one scene, he pushes his landlady's jar of eatables off the table because he is miffed with her), makes him a relatable character, who makes his point without fiery speeches or intense glares.
Hansal Mehta had delivered a winner with his last film Shahid and Aligarh too deserves a standing ovation. Mehta has taken the story of Siras and made it about human rights and not just about homosexuality, for which, he should be lauded. Moreover, Mehta has done it without getting preachy, which is another feather that he should add to his hat. Aligarh is a true 'David versus Goliath' story and has been treated with utmost sincerity and sensitivity.
However, this is not to say that the film doesn't have its faults. The plot moves at a slow pace and the courtroom scenes when Siras challenges the decision of the University to suspend him, are bereft of any intensity or drama (Not that we were expecting some tareekh pe tareekh histrionics, but the court scenes could have been more gripping).
Nevertheless, Aligarh is definitely worth a watch for the powerful performances and the sincere treatment of a sensitive story.