Saturday afternoon saw the controversy-ridden Jawaharlal Nehru University rock to another sound of music. Hansal Mehta, his lead actor Manoj Bajpayee and writer Apurva Asrani took their film Aligarh to JNU. The show was a sell-out.
Says Hansal, “The JNU auditorium was jam-packed. And there were scores of students and staffers standing outside when the screening began at 2pm. So, we quickly agreed to a second show right after the first screening ended.”
Hansal is very impressed by the students’ learned attitude to the issues. “The Q and As that followed the two screenings had the students asking Manoj, Apurva and me some extremely pertinent questions. We were floored by how well informed the students are.”
Regrettably, Rajkummar Rao could not join the Aligarh team as he was shooting in Raigarh.
But writer Apurva Asrani has come away from the experience with great memories. “I am feeling encouraged and re-energized. The students of arts & aesthetics at JNU are a bright bunch who dare to question the norm. The auditorium was packed to the brim and another few hundred students stood outside demanding a second screening. That kind of enthusiasm for a film is what any filmmaker dreams of, and we organized another screening at the last minute.”
Apurva says the JNU students were particularly taken up with the depiction of campus politics in Aligarh. “They watched in rapt attention and particularly reacted to the cinematic depiction of the campus and the teacher. The Q & A that followed was unlike any other so far. While most professed their love for the film, some questioned characters and their motives and made us answer some difficult questions.”
Apurva loved the spirit of democracy at the JNU. “I noticed that there was place for all opinions at JNU, and everyone was encouraged to express their opinion freely. It was truly a fabulous experience, made me want to go back to college, especially to a sprawling campus like JNU, where one felt so free.”
The team as now been invited to screen Aligarh in Hyderabad.
Informs Apurva, “We have now been invited to show Aligarh at University of Hyderabad (Rohith Vemula’s alma mater) and at the Film & Television Institute of India next, and we are strongly considering it. We never thought that our film would become synonymous with the voice of dissent in today’s youth!”