You must understand the whole of life,
not just one little part of it.
That is why you must read,
that is why you must look at the skies,
that is why you must sing and dance,
and write poems
and suffer and understand,
for all that is life.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
It is rare in Hindi movies to get to see a realistic portrayal of an actual event. I am not sure why but a general preference is to over-dramatise the incidents & deliver performances in the style of Sohrab Modi. Of course such movies & such performances - on & off screen - are also appreciated too often without a thought about the kind of substance or sometime even lack of it behind; thus ringing the cash register or voting machines - as the case might be.
The real life is not a drama though, and hence it was indeed heartening & refreshing to see two real life incidents portrayed so humanely in two outstandingly crafted movies back-to-back - within a week – first Neerja & then Aligarh.
Aligarh is about the human conscience, love & empathy which must remain the cornerstone of our value system & not the other way around where our value systems decides our response to love & empathy. The movie is also as much about the morality-preaching, right to privacy & hell-hounding media as about conscientious & sensitive journalism – perhaps a rare breed today but was not so always – at least not in the times (& I intend the pun) of till early 90s. Could it be the case that like the politicians, we also deserve our journalists? But I am digressing.
Being a movie about a poet perhaps made it easier, but Aligarh flows like a poetry – and as Prof Siras tells in the movie – where the nuances were found not in the words but in the pauses in between (Shabdon men nahin, Antaraal men).
Hansal Mehta has imbibed this, and one finds well-crafted scenes with such pauses aplenty – Prof Siras getting down to translating his own poem amidst the cacophony in the court room, or his advocate (Ashish Vidyarthi) after delivering a fine & case winning speech finding Prof Siras snoring away are just a few instances.
Despite him chiding us for tagging the adjectives rather than understanding, an absolutely inspired performances by Manoj Bajpai as Prof Siras - watch him blushing when his is called a good looking man, his eyes when he talks of going away to America, his fears when he hears a strange sound and the melancholy while listening to Lata’s Betaab Dil Ki Tamanna Yahi Hai– and Rajkumar Rao without any dialogue-baaji & melodrama is the kind of treat one does not get served too often.
And if not for these performances, Aligarh is worth watching because “being human” is not to generally tag & criminalise & shun away – because of our collective power - but to understand & be inclusive to even those who may have preferences or ideologies different from us.
Hats off to Hansal Mehta & his team!