'Aligarh:' Odd one out

There are a few makers who make films out of newspaper headlines and TV reports of real life events (usually negative or tragic ones); all that matters is that they have to be controversial. For a film, what matters the most is that a paying moviegoer has to identify with what is unwinding on screen. But, what some makers don’t follow that rule because they seek medal and awards more than rewards. Yet, when they make such a film, why do they insert a disclaimer at the start of the movie that the film is a work of fiction? 

Aligarh is the story of a professor from Aligarh Muslim University with different sexual leanings. Since the makers claim it to be totally their own work of fiction, I would like to say the story ‘coincides’ with the case of Professor Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, whose real name the film does not shy from using, disclaimer notwithstanding! 

As the legend goes, Siras, played by Manoj Bajpai, was a linguist, head of the department of modern Indian languages at Aligarh Muslim University, who specialised in Marathi. He was a poet too. A man in his 60s with a failed marriage, his leanings were towards homosexuality. 

Having been appointed head of a department, he had managed to create some jealous enemies and, one day, when he takes his newly cultivated same sex friend, a cycle rickshaw puller, home for obvious reasons, his detractors conduct a sting on him. A couple of lathi wielding video journalists barge into his bedroom and film him in the act. 

Next day, the video footage as well as pictures are out in the media and Siras is suspended from the university. 

The rest of the film is about his battle to prove that his different sexual leanings did not make him an abnormal man nor take away his knowledge or expertise from him. His case is covered and advocated by a Delhi based cub journalist, Rajkumar Yadav, who is convinced that Siras is framed. As it happens, an NGO comes on the scene and fights Siras’ battle in court. The homosexuality law is in a limbo for a time as the Supreme Court declares its reservations on this law under Section 377, making Siras a non-criminal but is reversed soon thereafter to turn him to a criminal again! 

The film is like a few other such films where a journalist follows his/her instincts on a particular case. Rather rare in India. 

What is good about Aligarh is the excellent performance from Bajpai, aptly supported by Yadav. 

Aligarh will earn rave reviews; it is not designed to earn at the box office. 

Direction: Hansal Mehta

Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Rajkumar Yadav

‘Tere Bin Laden: Dead Or Alive:’ Distant second

Tere Bin Laden, the 2010 satire was woven around 26/11 attacks on American targets including the World Trade Centre twin towers and the US of A’s war on terror that followed with prime objective being on finding Osama Bin Laden. Because of the moderate success of that film, that a sequel would follow was a forgone conclusion. The production of the sequel followed two to three years later but, surprisingly, there seemed to be no party interested to take it to the market till now.

A small time journalist in Pakistan, Ali Zafar, desperate to migrate to the US to make a career there, spots a Bin Laden look alike, Pradhuman Singh, and thinks he has found his passport, visa and whatever it takes to travel to the US. Ali dresses up Singh to look ditto like Laden and shoots his video to announce to the world that he had been able to track down the most sought after terrorist by the US.

In the sequel, Tere Bin Laden: Dead Or Alive, Manish Paul, son of a North India halwai, has dreams of making movies and comes to Mumbai to pursue his dream. He sells the idea to the Shetty Sisters to back his film. The sisters agree but, just when the film was to take off, the real Laden is killed by the US marines.

Paul’s dream is shattered. If Laden is dead, there is no sequel. But, there is an opening for him when it is reported that people are demanding proof from the US President of Laden’s death since his dead body was never on display. Paul decides to use this doubt in people’s mind as an opportunity to make his sequel. The news is all over the media. 

Across the seven seas, there is pressure on the US President to end the controversy once and for all. He delegates the work to CIA chief, Sikander Kher, who has a sidekick in Mia Uyeda to sort this out. The idea is to find a Laden look alike, shoot him on camera and produce the pictures. And, that is when they come across media coverage of Singh, Paul and the sequel. That sets CIA after Singh.

Somewhere in terrorist stronghold closer to India, an arms dealer, Piyush Mishra, who makes money out of supplying arms to terrorists, learns of Laden look alike too and he wants to cash in on this to promote his business. 

Now, Paul’s priority is the make his sequel and thus his debut as a filmmaker. CIA wants Laden killing to be shot on camera and, Mishra wants Laden alive so that his business would continue.

The greed to encash a successful film with a sequel is fair. But, trying to repeat a fluke is not kosher. The script does not exist, looks like the makers have gone along and shot scenes as they came to mind. Direction is tacky and what the film does finally is to make you realise that the original was a total fluke. Technically, the film is purely functional.

Let loose in front of camera, Paul and Singh do well. Piyush is more convincing than the rest. 

Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive is stillborn. 

Producers: Pooja Shetty Deora, Aarti Shetty

Direcion: Abhishek Sharma

Cast: Manish Paul, Pradhuman Singh, Sikander Kher, Piyush Mishra, Sugandha Garg, Mia Udeya

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