Director Mahesh Bhatt recently watched Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh, starring Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao. Maheshji penned his views and the article was first published in Mumbai Mirror dated February 17th, 2016. Check out an excerpt of Mahesh Bhatt’s Mumbai Mirror article on Aligarh below…
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity,” said the French philosopher, activist and mystic, Simone Weil. I have always believed that stories have the power to awaken us to the truth. Works of writers, who write from their wounds, have the power to take us via their stories into the truths of other people, whose lives we are willfully blind to, because we are busy amusing ourselves with comfortable lies.
Director Hansal Mehta and writer Apurva Asrani do just that in their film ALIGARH. They take us from our safe sanctuaries and our prisons, out of the same old Bollywood stories we have been telling ourselves, and pull us into the life of Dr. Srinavas Ramchandra Siras, a linguist and author in Aligarh University, who was humiliated and ousted from his position because of his sexual orientation.
This under-two hour biographical drama, made by brilliant technicians and actors Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao, is not just a film about the rights of homosexuals. It is much more than that. It is a passionate cry, bringing into focus every human beings right to be different from the herd, and to demand from the custodians of law our right to live our lives our way.
Homosexuality, which has been a part of human history for millennia, is controversial for all individuals, including homosexuals themselves, because it is not a dominant sexual orientation, and does not naturally lead to procreation. Whether individuals within a society agree with the practice of homosexuality or not, the central issue that Aligarh bravely spotlights is the right to freedom of choice within the confines of one’s own personal space.
From the very first shot of Dr. Siras being driven home in a rickshaw on a wintery night, and the subsequent nightmare that unfolds thereafter, Hansal makes the viewer realize that the problem of this persecuted minority is a burning issue, simply because of one’s own personal apathy. He makes us realize that we are individually, personally responsible for viewing homosexuality as something disgraceful, and have turned the other way when they are humiliated by society under our very noses.
As I sat watching this film, I couldn’t help but marvel at how India of 2016 has drastically changed from the India of the last century. Here is a filmmaker and his team who have taken a clear position and are crusading to change the nations’ belief towards sexuality. I marvel at the quantum leap that Hansal, Manoj, Rajkummar and Apurva have taken. They have given us a moving document, which will make even the stone hearted, blinkered viewer feel the pain and loneliness of Dr. Siras, and perhaps make him feel that he too was responsible for the tragic hand that he was dealt.
If attention is indeed the rarest and purest form of generosity, then Aligarh is the most generous human document to have flowered in these mind-numbing times. Where most filmmakers are attempting to lull an audience into sleep, Aligarh, and the haunting face of Manoj Bajpayee, wakes you up, and jolts you out of your slumber.