Hansal Mehta and writer Apurva Asrani talk about their film, Aligarh. The movie is based on the life of Aligarh Muslim University professor Ramchandra Siras, who was suspended for being homosexual. He passed away in 2010.
- “There were a few authorities from the university kind enough to talk to us. But I don’t think they believed he was innocent or that his story should be glorified. They said associating something like homosexuality to the city of Aligarh was an insult,” says Asrani.
- “Being homosexual may be an ‘issue’ for the world, but it is a way of life for many of us. It is who we are,” says Asrani.
- “I find it difficult when people put gay people in a slot. They look at us in that ‘we understand what you go through, we must fight for your issue’ way. I think it needs to go beyond being seen as different from the others. We should aim to be included as equals in society, and that will begin by removing the labels.”
- “Two human beings in love with each other… How can that be unnatural? Aligarh is a metaphor for the world that we have become. We are conditioned to be homophobic, to perceive things that are documented in mythology and scriptures as unnatural,” says Mehta.
- “Prof Siras was subjected to discrimination because he was considered ‘different’. When someone does not conform to the idea of the family man – of the husband with a wife and children — you are seen as an outsider. And society likes to bully the marginalised.”
Who was Ramchandra Siras?
- Ramchandra Siras was a professor at Aligarh Muslim University, and a Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad awardee.
- Siras was suspended by AMU for ‘misconduct’, after being ambushed by a TV channel’s camera crew while having sex with a rickshaw-puller.
- Prof Siras took the suspension to court and was reinstated since the Delhi High Court had, in 2009, decriminalised consensual gay sex.
- Shortly after resuming work, Prof Siras passed away. Aligarh, the movie, delves on the conversations between Prof Siras (played by Manoj Bajpayee) and journalist Deepu Sebastian (Raj Kummar Rao). Its dialogue, written by Asrani, contain prose and poetry inspired by Siras’s award-winning book of Marathi poems, Paya Khalchi Hirawal.