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Dealt with responsibility & sensitivity

Dealt with responsibility & sensitivity
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Highlights

The criminalisation of sexual preferences has come up for debate in recent times. Ever since the Mumbai High Court looked at it in the Naz Foundation case and then the apex court in a retrograde verdict set aside the judgement, there has been a demand for revisiting the premise. The apex court in the near future will hear a galaxy of jurists on private rights, human rights and other connected issu

The criminalisation of sexual preferences has come up for debate in recent times. Ever since the Mumbai High Court looked at it in the Naz Foundation case and then the apex court in a retrograde verdict set aside the judgement, there has been a demand for revisiting the premise. The apex court in the near future will hear a galaxy of jurists on private rights, human rights and other connected issues.

Meanwhile tucked away in the narrow streets of Allahabad and from the campus of the hallowed Aligarh University is the tale of a professor, who paid dearly for his sexual preference with life. It is taken to celluloid with a sense of responsibility and sensitivity by Hansal Mehta in a terse tale of 120 minutes.

Are we finally moving in the right direction? Is Hindi cinema coming of age? The timing of the film (Namaskar Nihalaniji!) is near perfect. At a time when the decibel levels of intolerance and cultural pressures at college campuses is increasing, we have a narrative that keeps the debate low and the human element high. It is, everything said and done, a compliment to the sagacity of our democratic polity that one dared to make this film, that we got to see it, and thankfully the multiplex ensured no crude statements and /or judgmental protests. Outside of the content there is so much to salute, save, savour and respect. As is with the content.

The story is all too well-known. It recalls with fluidity the traumatic experience of Dr Siras (Manoj Bajpayee) a professor of Marathi in the Department of Language Studies at the University. He is attacked by a set of goons aided and abetted by his academic colleagues who are obviously dissatisfied with he being called to head the department. And then there are the moral policing mobs that take charge and pelt platitudes. After the invasion of his privacy, the system decides to chase him. He is suspended, socially boycotted and by the time the judicial system steps in, he walks out.

The film is more about Siras the man and the anguish. He is the poet who has a sensitive quotient ill-suited to the times. He writes poetry, enjoys his solitariness and listens to haunting melodies of Lata Mangeshkar (tuned by Madan Mohan). He admits that he is an outsider a linguist with a different tongue from the majority, a literate chasing the illusion that our Universities are still platforms for debate and thereby learning, single.

“Mere Jaise Log” who are better suited to live in peace in USA, he declares but decides to travel even farther! The saikdo shehnaiyan referred to in Raja Mehdi Ali Khan’s: Aap ki nazron ne samjha add more melancholy than melody to his life. He finds support from a budding journalist, Deepu Sebastain (Rajkummar Rao), who is out to expose the story of violation of the victim’s human rights. Deepu is even told that the present generation has no time for poetry and how at the campus today bad politics and blood have come to replace open debate and tolerance. The protagonist makes clear that poetry is not so much words as it is the silence and the pause. In that test Hansal Mehta’s work is largely more poetry than critical prose.

While Rajkkumar Rao and the rest of the cast do their very best and as usual he is endearing, this time the film completely belongs to Bajpayee. He is so good. Bereft of mannerisms and as the 60-year-old old caught in a web unprepared both personally and societally, he takes the suffering to a plain that is rare and piercing.

The debate will go on. Is homosexuality about being different or the right to be. Is it about governance, law or majoritarian morality? In the meanwhile, here is a heart touching experience of trauma and how society failed to save a decent guy and penalised him for his sexual choice. Watch it and if nothing we the collective stand exposed for being ever so judgmental.

Cast : Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao and Ashish Vidyarthi
Director : Hansal Mehta
Genre : Drama
ThumpsUP : Sincerity
ThumpsDown: Hurting

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