By Rohan Murti
Being the frivolous kid that I was a year ago, my aversion to content-driven ventures was quite justifiable. We were exposed to slap-stick comedies; the likes of ‘Dostana,’ which was pretty much the provenance of homosexuality being the newly accepted comedy-gimmick. I remember facing the huge screen, trying to comprehend certain references, as men twice my age guffawed to innuendos that were beyond my understanding.
I wouldn’t blame them, of course. For I grew up to perceive homosexuality through the very same spectrum a few years later. Although the trailer intrigued me to look forward to its release, it was pure boredom that drove me to visit the cinemas that day. And, all by myself (for the very first time). I watched ‘Aligarh’ just hours before I turned eighteen, which was probably the best time at which I could’ve watched it.
This story has the audacity to challenge your beliefs and provoke your conscience. It pilfers a trivial piece of your belief system and hands it back to you in a platter, forcing you to into introspection; this is unlike anything I’ve ever watched in an Indian film. Rajkummar Rao convincingly plays a journalist, covering the story of Professor Siras’ (Manoj Bajpayee) suspension from Aligarh University for allegedly having sexual intercourse with a rickshaw puller. Manoj Bajpayee, needless to say, is the soul of this film. The reclusive demeanour, the reluctant chuckles, the awkward embrace, the cadence in every single dialogue makes us commiserate with this gay professor fighting for justice.
Films like ‘Aligarh’ need an audience. The reason why being gay or lesbian is often found ludicrous in India is because of laws like Section 377 (criminalises sexual activities ‘against the order of nature’) that proclaim this ideology indirectly. On the 26th of February, 2016, ‘Aligarh’ made me vividly aware of this fact.
A year has passed, and I’m about to turn nineteen. In many matters governing my life, I’m still the same old imbecile. But whenever a guy’s being mocked at for his effeminate ways and gait, or a eunuch is being made fun of, I’m proud not to be a part of it. And yes, a movie taught me that!