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With ‘azadi’, comes responsibility, ‘Aligarh’ maker tells JNU students

Earlier, the screening of Mehta’s latest film Aligarh in JNU had been greeted with a thundering applause, punctuated with whistles, and an impromptu encore show.

Written by Somya Lakhani | Delhi |
March 6, 2016 2:26:06 am
JNU, aligarh, JNU aligarh screening, Hansal Mehta, azadi, responsibility, JNU aligarh screening, Manoj Bajpayee, Apurva Asrani, delhi news Filmmaker Hansal Mehta at JNU Saturday. His movie, Aligarh, was screened as part of the I View World film fest. Tashi Tobgyal

Touching on the ongoing debate over ‘azadi’ (freedom) in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), film-maker Hansal Mehta told students during a candid discussion Saturday, “I want to tell you all that I am with you. Your ‘azadi’ is important but it comes with responsibility. I hope whatever you do, it will be done with that responsibility.”

Earlier, the screening of Mehta’s latest film Aligarh in JNU had been greeted with a thundering applause, punctuated with whistles, and an impromptu encore show.

As part of the ongoing “I View World film festival”, the screening was followed by a discussion between the audience and a panel comprising actor Manoj Bajpayee, screenwriter and editor Apurva Asrani, and Mehta.

“There is a lot of interest in the audience here. I wonder why we didn’t show the movie in more universities. We do have an invitation from the University of Hyderabad, so let’s see,” said Asrani.

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The film was screened at the auditorium in the School of Arts and Aesthetics in JNU, and a lively 30-minute-long round of Q&As was held in the complex outside.

“The script had greatness written all over it. I wasn’t performing in the film, I was trying to celebrate the life and death of Professor Siras,” said Bajpayee.

Aligarh revolves around the mysterious death of Dr Siras, a professor of the Aligrah Muslim University, in 2010, and the witch-hunt against him due to his sexual orientation.

On being asked about the film being “banned” in Aligarh, Mehta said, “This shows that the society in many places is homophobic. Not just Section 377, but our mindsets too need to change. If people oppose the film, they should talk about it. But they don’t, just like in the campus here where people are unwilling to talk,” referring to the ongoing JNU row.

The trio also had to face some tough questions, especially about revealing the identity of Siras’s partner — a rickshaw-puller — in the movie.

The revelation has put him in danger, according to some news reports.

“The person in question has given 16 press interviews till date. We have used the material available to us in the public domain, and we spoke to each character. Do not believe every media report you see, just the way one doesn’t believe every media report about JNU and (JNUSU president) Kanhaiya Kumar,” said Asrani.

The panel also answered questions on the use of Lata Mangeshkar’s songs in the film, the emotional significance of including a reporter’s viewpoint, and Asrani also recited the poem in Aligarh — O beloved moon, fear not the dawn that separates us, we will meet again when the world sleeps.

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