On February 26, when the whole country rose to Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras’ story, the city of Aligarh was still in slumber. The screening of the Hansal Mehta-directed film “Aligarh” was unofficially stalled over reasons best known to the sore city mayor Shakuntala Bharti. Bharti had reservations on the film’s content (besides its name) that highlights the travails of Siras, a professor who taught Marathi at the Aligarh Muslim University. Siras was unceremoniously sacked from services over charges of homosexuality, after a sting-op in the year 2010.
Siras’ role was essayed by actor Manoj Bajpai, and the film received prolific reception in India and abroad. In the city of Aligarh, however, there was a steady unrest. The mayor, purportedly, was miffed with the “bold content” of the film and according to a Times of India report, “mounted a protest against its screening”. Bharti said the film “linked the city with homosexuality”, thereby “defaming” it.
Aligarh movie-goers, who had been waiting to watch the film that also stars Raj Kummar Rao and Ashish Vidyarthi in important roles, were left baffled when they learnt that not one theatre was screening the film.
Besides the mayor, certain fringe groups also flagged their objections. According to The Indian Express, a group called the Millat Bedari Muhim Committeee (MBMC) wrote a letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, saying, “The title of the film, “Aligarh” is offending, as it sends a message (that) gay practice is common at Aligarh. It will desist (sic) people (from) send(ing) their children to Aligarh for studies. Further, as it is also an industrial centre, the impression of city goes negative (sic) in foreign countries which lowers the country’s prestige”.
Why does it not surprise us? Homosexuality, which is pretty much as relevant, concurrent and prevalent in the society, is persistently deemed sacrilegious. Something as personal as one’s sexual preference, has, repeatedly been bottled-up and proscribed. Just because certain elements in the society are living under a rock, or in denial, does not mean the society as a whole, will too. You may close your eyes and stick your head inside a pit, but that will not change the reality. The truth is that there exist, on earth, people who prefer the company of their own sexes.
How would a free-citizen of any nation like it, if told that their carnal choice is blasphemous? Likewise, banning a film (officially or unofficially), is preposterous. You do not like the subject of the film, are delusional, it is your choice. Refrain from watching films on subjects you don’t understand. But to stop the masses from watching a movie, because YOU exist in a parallel domain, is unfair.
Aligarh must start screening “Aligarh” at once. It is a beautiful movie of a real struggle. The subject of homosexuality is no longer a sensitive one. It is as real as any other. So all you people in power, brush off that hypocrisy and take charge. Ceaseless banning of anything and everything will only degenerate the society and that will not be a healthy march.