Aligarh is not the story of persecution of a gay professor by his University. It is the story of every man and woman, who has been branded as ‘immoral’, ‘uncultured’ by the so called ‘moral police’ of the society. This movie holds a mirror to the society, so it can take a look at its own ugly mug. The irony is that the way censor board treated this movie, is a reflection of the story in the movie itself. Giving it an ‘A’ certificate just because the story moves around a ‘gay’ character.
Unlike those of us, the ‘queer’ people who grew up in the age of internet and social media, who were exposed to knowledge and information otherwise censored in our society, people like Professor Siras was untouched of the ‘labels’ and ‘borders’ that we often put on ourselves. He never had a ‘closet’ to break out of. He didn’t identify as gay or bisexual, he didn’t identify as queer or ‘abnormal’. He didn’t have knowledge of SEC 377, he didn’t have knowledge of the activists that fought for the rights of people like him.
But that doesn’t make him a coward or ignorant. He was just an ordinary men, leading an ordinary life. Which was disrupted by so called ‘educated’ men for their own selfish reasons. It’s hard to believe that a man who stood his ground and took to task the institution that betrayed him, would end up taking his own life after winning a long and hard drawn battle for his self-respect. If he were that distraught of the ordeals he were put through, he would have taken his life the day those ‘reporters’ invaded his privacy and inflicted the torture on him.
He had won his case against Aligarh Muslim University, he had won his job back. But he never got the justice he deserved. And people like him will always be denied justice as long as we have laws like SEC 377 that criminalise the private consensual acts between two adults or SEC 354, which could have helped Professor Siras get justice against those who violated his privacy, if it were not so gender biased.
Section 354 C in IPC: Voyeurism
Any man who watches, or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine, and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
After watching the movie, I feel privileged and grateful for the kind of people I have in my life. I feel grateful to have a ‘queer’ community to which I can relate to and with whom I can share a stage to demand my fundamental rights. I feel grateful for having a support system and for the changing mindset of today’s youth. And most of all I feel obliged to keep fighting for the rights of people like Professor Siras so that no more incidents like the Aligarh kaand happens.
The movie is the best thing to happen to Indian cinema. Manoj Bajpai’s portrayal of the struggles and ordeals of Professor Siras is so genuine and realistic, nowhere will you feel that he’s an actor in the role. The movie is a treat enough simply for his acting skills. Apurva Asrani has preserved the soul of Professor Siras in the story-line of the movie. An excellent production from the house of Hansal Mehta, this movie could mark the rise of meaningful and thoughtful movies in Bollywood.