TV + Movies

On Love And Loneliness – Aligarh (2015)

'Aligarh' is an Indian film that brings out the true essence of the existence of love and loneliness together. The film is an exploration of emotions – a sneak peek into the life of Prof. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, an author and linguist in Marathi literature.

We humans often associate love with all things beautiful, and loneliness with a sense of sadness. Hardly does one speak of the juxtaposition of Love and Loneliness. Yes, it might be true that they are visibly two separate spectrums of emotions, but sometimes they act like a single entity – constituting both – and you simply feel nothing but helplessness.

‘Aligarh’ is an Indian film that brings out the true essence of the existence of love and loneliness together. The film is an exploration of emotions – a sneak peek into the life of Prof. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, an author and linguist in Marathi literature. Dr. Siras was a gay professor who taught at the Aligarh Muslim University, India, and was ousted from the university for being a homosexual. In a sting operation, Dr. Siras was filmed making love with a rickshaw-walla. Even though this was a violation of his privacy, the court’s judgment accused Siras of being guilty of homosexuality.

Hansal Mehta, the director of the film has done brilliant work at bringing out the story in such a tender and real form – giving life to the tiniest emotion. Manoj Bajpayee plays the role of Prof. Siras, and the portrayal of pain and loss is so well expressed, that it overwhelms you. You can almost hear the loneliness screaming from his bones. The depth of sadness a person could hold in themselves after being accused of something that isn’t wrong in any sense has been brought out very well. The setting of this film is placed during a time when being gay was criminalized in India.

The film also stars Rajkumar Rao, who plays the role of Deepu Sebastian, a young and enthusiastic journalist who happens to reach Prof. Siras in search of the story that went missing a long time ago. Prof Siras was initially hesitant to open up to anyone because of the burden of sadness, and the fear of vulnerability he carried in himself for such a long time. Eventually, he opens up and they develop a very beautiful relationship, growing fond of each other. In a scene where Deepu asks Prof. Siras if the rickshaw-walla was his love, Siras gets extremely furious as he says – ‘What is love? Why do you get stuck on words? You make it sound like a dirty word. I have a problem with this.’ For Siras, love was beyond anyone’s imagination, he felt people never really understood the truest meaning of such a profound word, he believed that people associated the word love with things that didn’t embody the crux of it. 

Apurva Ansari, the writer of the film, has done a marvelous job at crafting the scenes and keeping the pattern less dramatic and more cathartic. Imagine not being able to be who you are and everyone around you blaming you for your existence. The ache, the sorrow that Prof. Siras had to go through is undeniably depressing. The film speaks about gay rights and advocates its importance in the country.

This review would be incomplete without mentioning a particularly heartbreaking and intense scene in the film that revolves around the narration of a poem by Manoj Bajpayee – ‘Oh Beloved Moon’, written by Apurva Ansari, as a tribute to Prof. Siras.

Oh Beloved Moon
Oh beloved moon fear not, the dawn that separates it
For we will meet again, when the world goes to sleep.
In the light of day, I am unseen
It is in your light, my heart awakens
We will dance, as shadows dance
To the songs of nightingales
We will touch, as shadows touch
Becoming one in the midnight sun.
Oh beloved moon fear not, the dawn that separates it
For we will meet again, when the world goes to sleep.

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Software Developer by day, Writer by night. A film-enthusiast who finds extreme comfort in understanding film characters, and seeks great interest in dissecting scenes to understand the crux of the film. Also, loves attending film festivals and believes in appreciating good cinema. Good food can always fill your stomach, but a good film can stir your soul.
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Shivam Sharma

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