Aligarh is a 2015 Hindi, biographical drama film based on the life of Indian linguist and author Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras,who was suspended from his job because of his sexual orientation. Siras was the professor of Marathi at the Aligarh Muslim University. After successfully appealing his suspension, he died in suspicious circumstances. Manoj Bajpai plays the role of Siras, and Rajkummar Rao plays a journalist. Shooting was held in Bareilly, Agra Uttar Pradesh. The film is slated for its world wide theatrical release on 26 February 2016.
Aligarh had its world premiere at the 20th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea on 4 October 2015. The film was received with a standing ovation. Aligarh had its European premiere at the 59th BFI London Film Festival on 10 October 2015. The response was generally superlative and the film garnered excellent reviews. Screen International in its review called it a “A subtle, sensitive take on a controversial real-life court case involving the victimization of a gay college professor, Aligarh underscores the growing strength and diversity of Indian independent cinema”.
The British Film Institute, in its ‘Whats On’ review of Aligarh called it ‘Probably the best film yet on the Indian gay male experience, Hansal Mehta directs a riveting and nuanced tale that is as touching as it is powerful. Noted British film critic Rich Cline awarded it four stars and said “The film has striking layers of global resonance. And it’s written, directed and acted with remarkable sensitivity and insight”.
Set in a city of Uttar Pradesh and based on true events, the plot revolves around Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras who taught Marathi at Aligarh Muslim University. He was sacked from his position of Reader and Chair of Modern Indian Languages, on charges of homosexuality. A sting operation was conducted by a TV channel which showed him in an embrace with a rickshaw puller, at his house inside the campus.
The movie was shot in various parts of Uttar Pradesh including Aligarh, Agra, Bareilly & Greater Noida (C-Block; Sector – Gamma 1). Wherein Greater Noida a small indoor sequence was shot for 3-4 days by Raj Kumar Rao.
Aligarh had its India premiere in Mumbai at the 17th JioMAMI Mumbai Film Festival on 30th October 2015. It also has the honor of being the only Indian film to open the festival since its inception. The response was once again overwhelming. Meenakshi Shedde, South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival and award-winning critic, had this to say about in her Mid-Day review ‘Aligarh is masterfully directed: it is that rare film that courageously stands for human rights, including those of homosexuals, yet offers a quiet, distilled perspective.’ Celebrated columnist Aseem Chhabra in his rediff.com review said ‘Aligarh is a very important film, a milestone in the history of Indian cinema that should start the much needed conversation about how India treats a visible and yet often ignored minority group.’
Pioneering gay rights activist and editor of Bombay Dost magazine, Ashok Row Kavi, in his Firstpost.com review called Aligarh ‘a masterpiece of cinematic skills’ and went onto say ‘What Mehta and writer Apurva Asrani have done is pluck out a commonplace professor in a commonplace university and weave a true life story into a tapestry of terrifying, compelling drama.’