Although India boasts a much-loved gay member of royalty (Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil) and recognizes people who identify as neither male nor female as a third gender, it almost goes without saying that the lives of LGBT people living there remain extremely complicated and often very bleak. A new drama from director Hansal Mehta titled Aligarh, considered the first major Bollywood feature to address the human cost of the country’s still predominantly antigay climate, uses a real-life story to shed some light on the challenges they face and will hopefully create a conversation about decriminalizing homosexuality.
The film will screen at the Indian Film Festival in Los Angeles in April. The information page on the festival site offers more illumination about the project:
Mehta and screenwriter Apurva Asrani find inspiration in the true story of Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a linguistics professor at Aligarh Muslim University who faced suspension and possible termination due to his sexual orientation. Though many supporters rally to Siras’ cause, including a dedicated journalist played with great panache by Rajkummar Rao, Mehta and lead actor Manoj Bajpayee paint a portrait of the doctor as a gentle man more concerned with the beauty life and love have to offer rather than tooth-and-nail fighting over rights that no courts should be able to deny. Siras’ story is a heartbreaking reminder of the human cost of injustice, and inspires one of the most vital films to come out of India in recent years.
Also being screened during the festival is the progressive queer-themed short Threshold, in which a young boy begins to wrestle with questions of gender identity after being delighted to be cast in the female role of a school play. The festival takes place April 6-10 at the ArcLight Hollywood in Los Angeles. Threshold will have its world premiere on April 8. Aligarh will screen April 9.
Watch the trailer for Aligarh below.