#INDIA: University Protests Film About Fired Gay Professor for “Defamation”

A new film, Aligarh, depicting the real-life drama surrounding a professor at Aligarh Muslim University, Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, who killed himself in 2009 following his being fired for his sexuality, is being protested by the university which fired him.

If there’s one place you can’t watch the Manoj Bajpai-starrer ‘Aligarh’, it’s Aligarh itself.

Though Hansal Mehta’s controversial project found widespread release in other districts of Uttar Pradesh on Friday, strong opposition from students of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and a few organisations has reportedly prevented it from making it to movie halls in the town. There are two reasons for their discomfiture – the name of the movie, and the alleged portrayal of AMU in a negative light.[…]

Registering strong opposition against the movie’s release, town-based organisation Millat Bedari Muhim Committee (MBMC) submitted a memorandum to Union information & broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad – seeking that the movie’s name be changed.

Making a similar demand, AMU students action committee leaders Shikoh and Fahim Akhtar said they plan to lodge an FIR against Mehta once the convocation was over. “We will not allow anybody to defame Aligarh. He should give some other title to this film,” they said.

According to the two, the movie sends the wrong message about Aligarh – otherwise a centre of education and culture that’s “factually portrayed through the ghazals of Shaharyar in the film Umrao Jaan”.

Former AMU students’ union vice-president Syed Masud-ul-Hasan disapproved of the movie’s very theme. “Films must not be encouraged to portray such relationships. I feel it’s a criminal activity. Films should have a positive message for the youth.”

via Change title of Manoj Bajpai’s Aligarh: AMU students, groups demand | india | Hindustan Times.

Siras’ case made national news in India following his privacy being violated by journalists who forced their way into his dorm room and filmed him having consensual sex with a rickshaw puller. Despite homosexuality being decriminalized throughout India at the time by the Delhi High Court, AMU proceeded to fire Siras from his job the next day. He successfully sued for his reinstatement and returned to his job in April 2010, but was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound a week after his return.

The filmmaker, Hansal Mehta, has come out strongly against the protests:

“It doesn’t seem like an official ban. The mayor (Shakuntala Bharti) has joined the issue with the fringe group (MBMC). Our stand is that the city of Aligarh has, once again, killed professor Siras,” Mehta said.

Terming those decrying the movie as homophobic, he said, “Their worry is that Aligarh, which is famous for knowledge and locks, will be linked only to homosexuality with this movie. There can’t be a statement more homophobic than this.”

Watch the trailer here:


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