It was a Friday. Three major movies had released- The Revenant, Carol and Aligarh, and I wanted to watch each and every one of them. Sadly, Friday was a working day for me and I was scheduled to leave for Australia early Saturday morning. Amid all the work and preparation for travel, I could just squeeze out enough time for one movie, and that too if I gave up sleep. This led to the big question- which of the three should I choose? All were equally appealing to me and if I had my way, I would watch all three of them. The Revenant promises to tell the story of sheer willpower, the desire to live that overcomes seemingly insurmountable adversities. Carol, well firstly it has Cate Blanchett and secondly, the movie tells the beautiful tale of love between a young soul who is still finding her feet in her career and a middle-aged woman who has been in a hollow relationship with her husband. And then there was Aligarh, the story based on the real incident that happened to Mr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a professor with the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University who was suspended for his sexual orientation. So, why did I choose Aligarh? Here's what I told myself, "These kind of movies don't happen everyday in Bollywood. Actors like Manoj Bajpai and Rajkumar Rao don't come together very often. As an admirer of this kind of cinema, I want to show my support for it. I want to send out the message that we want more of these movies. I want this movie to earn profit. It won't earn mega crores but if my ticket can help it earn some decent profit and encourage the Indian film industry to produce more of such movies, it would be every bit worth it. " Fueled by these thoughts, I put my tiredness aside and went out for a late night show, alone (absence of company wasn't going to stop me). Now let's move on to Aligarh (not literally ofcourse), my experience watching the movie and my review.
First few minutes into the movie and you are sure that there are absolutely no frills, unnecessary distractions or futile story buildup in this one. It is powerful storytelling that does not require cheap gimics. Right from the locations, the costumes and the performances by the actors to the dialogues- everything feels so real; there's nothing larger than life here. Infact, it shows that how sometimes life, inspite of being so large, fails a person because of something as fundamental and rudimentary as his sexual orientation.
Manoj Bajpai's performance as the lead character is sheer power, power that is effortless, seamless and engaging. Not for one second do you feel yourself away from Mr. S.R. Siras. You feel his pain, you feel his helplessness, you feel his simplicity, you feel his anger, you feel him smiling, you feel everything he feels. He says few words but communicates a thousand thoughts. A simple man with simple pleasures in life, he exudes an aura of wisdom. Like that wise old teacher you feel nothing but absolute respect for. Manoj Bajpai has done a tremendous job playing this character. The restrained body language, long lingering pauses, slight twitches on the face, sad but hopeful eyes- he has emulated his character to perfection.
Rajkumar Rao's performance as a young journalist Deepu is plain delightful. He's the guy next door (especially if your door is in Noida or Gurgaon) who lends a helping hand to our knight in distress. Here, I would also like to commend the writer, director and editor. They have kept Rao's role just the right size, making sure that he appears only where he is relevant and that the main focus of the story is not lost. This may not be his best performance ever but it certainly is a good one (like he can ever give a bad one but anyways)... His chemistry with Manoj Bajpai is natural and endearing right from their first meeting.
Coming to another hero in the movie- the dialogues. They are so crisp and meaningful that everytime Siras says something, you feel like you need some time to process it in your head and dwell on its meaning for a while (you might even wish his pauses were slightly longer).
One of the dialogues that has stayed with me is when Siras tells Deepu that a poem lies in the spaces between words and everyone interprets that poetry differently as per their age and level of maturity. A deeper thought makes you realize that Aligarh is also a poetic tale. It lies in its pauses and everyone will interpret it differently. My interpretation of this poem? Well, for me it is a wakeup call, a message, a subtle reprimand. One that makes me feel shameful that as a society, we have failed a large section of people by questioning their natural sexual instinct and terming it immoral. I felt ashamed of all those times we used gays and lesbians in context of fun. We have no right to judge others' natural instincts and what they prefer doing in their bedrooms.
So, would I recommend you to go and watch Aligarh this weekend? Hell yes! Ofcourse yes! A big yessss!!! And after you watch it, please comment below and let me know what is your interpretation of this beautiful poetic tale.