In 2010, Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a Marathi language professor at Aligarh Muslim University in northern India, was suspended after a sting operation caught him at home being intimate with his male lover.
The professor, in an interview to TV channel NDTV, later called the filming an “encroachment on my privacy” and added that he felt “angry”, “ashamed” and “insulted”.
He successfully appealed against his suspension, but was later found dead under mysterious circumstances. Police found traces of poison in his blood, but closed the case citing lack of evidence.
The Siras case has been one of the talking points of the debate around homosexuality and the right to privacy in India. The country’s Supreme Court has refused to decriminalise homosexuality, punishable under Indian law by up to 10 years in prison.
National Award-winning actors Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao star in Aligarh, with Bajpayee playing Siras and Rao a journalist who writes about the professor and later befriends him.
Under the guidance of director Hansel Mehta the film invites you into Siras’ world. It helps you understand his circumstance and is a perfect illustration of how homophobia can destroy people.
Aligarh’s screenplay deftly and delicately handles these matters while making sure that the film is not ‘about an issue’, but about a human tragedy. He was persecuted, humiliated and suspended for being homosexual. He lived in flesh and blood but died struggling to find his dignity.
Mehta spoke to the Times of India saying: “Aligarh is a portrait of loneliness.”
“We take things too simplistically. Everything is taken in simplistic manner. The truth is, it (the film) is a portrait of loneliness. The loneliness has been imposed upon the man because of society’s invasive tendencies, because society decided to invade his private space.”
Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut added: “This is the best film I have seen in the past 10 years. And it’s very good for our society. Just like medicine, which may be difficult to take but should be taken for the betterment. As our society is also growing and evolving, the way we are, as a nation, as a country, its very courageous for Hansal sir to make this film.”