New Delhi: Aligarh, Hansal Mehta’s riveting film on the Indian gay male experience, premiered on television on Sunday night seven months after it hit the big screen, but with a curb, which has left scriptwriter Apurva Ansari fuming.
For the screening, the TV channel, & Pictures, besides censoring intimate scenes and muting words like ‘sex’, ‘low caste Muslim’, ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’, also muted the two most defining words of the drama – ‘homosexual’ and ‘namard’.
This censorship immediately attracted a lot of attention on social media, given that the words were at the crux of the story. Based in Badlapur, Aligarh is interspersed with many real life events from the life of Srinivas Ramchandra Siras, a professor of Marathi at the Aligarh Muslim University in UP. After a hidden camera taping exposed his sexual orientation, Siras, an accomplished academic, was removed from the position of reader and chair of Modern Indian Languages at the university.
A day after the small screen premiere, Mehta responded to the tweets about the TV censorship.
The words were muted, yes. But the film wasn't. No point lamenting censorship because IT EXISTS. I'm glad Aligarh was shown on TV.
— Hansal Mehta (@mehtahansal) September 12, 2016
Speaking to The Wire, Mehta said, “I am a very practical person, I will not sit on a creative high horse and refuse to agree to the screening without the words, simply because I have an ethical obligation towards my financers. You have to remember that the satellite premier takes care of some of the costs of a film.”
Mehta added, “For me, it is more important to be able to get a financer for a film like ‘Aligarh’ than fighting something that refuses to change. That even if the words like ‘homosexual’ were muted in the film but it was not lost on so many people that it was a film about homosexuality anyway makes these rules useless.”
The film’s writer Apurva Asrani, however, openly expressed his unhappiness about the censorship on Twitter.
It is soul crushing for a gay person to find the word homosexual muted in #Aligarh. This is not about censorship. It is about human rights.
— Apurva Asrani (@Apurvasrani) September 12, 2016
Asrani also said, “I had to carry out the censorship brutality on ‘Aligarh’ myself (being its dialogue writer). It was painful and self defeatist to mute the very dignity we found for Siras.”
After watching the film on TV, a fan wrote on Twitter, “A film about a homosexual and the word homosexual gets beeped off. We are not called hypocrites for nothing.”