Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh arrives at a poignant time. After almost a year, travelling the festivals around the world and garnering enough acclaim to be worthy of attention, the film is slated for a nationwide mainstream release on 26th February 2016. Incidentally, throughout the last year, the BJP Government at the centre has succeeded in cementing its position across the bureaucratic and cultural domains. Religious right wing bodies all over India have come out in all saffron glory pushing their medieval dogma, both vehemently and violently. And in the midst of it all, comes the trailer of Aligarh, a film about a man’s persecution rooted in homophobia and bigotry.
The trailer of the film talks about Professor Siras (Manoj Bajpayee), a professor of Marathi, who faced abject humiliation and persecution by his university authorities and other citizens for being gay. The first thing that strikes the viewer is of course Bajpayee’s portrayal of Siras, heartfelt, sensitive and intense. The voice over narration talks about him being a professor of Marathi in an Urdu speaking town or being a lonely bachelor among married people, etc. and it effectively defines the self and other binary, which is the root of all bigotry.
However one can also sense a few traps there in the trailer itself. There is a line which can be heard as the camera is fixed on a close up of Siras and it says that practicing homosexuality within University campus is “Haram”. Now, Haram is something forbidden by Islamic Law. The sheer use of this word in the trailer along with the locales, architecture, faces, etc. distinctly hints towards a Muslim cultural milieu. However, it should be noted that Muslims are the minority community in this country and currently equally victimized by the ‘Saffron’ terror as much as the sexual minorities. Even the title of the film, which evokes the name of the Prophet, also comes across as a monolith of tyranny. In other words, there is a distinct possibility that the film might just get caught in its own crosshairs and prove ideologically and politically counterproductive to everything it attempts to achieve. The other factor is the over emphasis on the notion of love in the trailer which might just hint towards a sentimental closure to an issue like this….that’d be unfortunate too.
Arup Ratan Samajdar