Director Hansal Mehta and lead actor Manoj Bajpayee of Aligarh, in conversation with Team Box Office India
Box Office India (BOI): What is the message you are trying to put out with this film?
Hansal Mehta (HM): Aligarh is such an important film for us that we are trying to do everything that ensures the film an audience Friday (February 26) onwards. I believe that the marketing budget of a film should be controlled otherwise it becomes an added load on the film. Fortunately, because of its trailer the film has created a buzz. Also the whole ongoing issue of the Section 377 that the Supreme Court is relooking at, it has automatically put the film at the centre of things and it has allowed us to tell people about the film.
We are trying to tell people that here is a film and a character that rarely comes in Indian cinema. Say in the late ‘90s when there were lot of formulaic films that were being made, suddenly a mad man named Ram Gopal Varma made a film called Satya.
Manoj Bajpayee (MB): (Cuts in) With all newcomers.
HM: Yes, and he unleashed someone called Bhiku Mhatre. So today Bhiku Mhatre is back, but with a new kind of character played by the same actor doing something that you rarely see. Even in our own careers these kinds of characters are rarely portrayed. And it just so happens that he is a poet and is a lovely old man. I think that kind of a portrayal and that kind of sensitivity towards an older protagonist hasn’t happened since Anupam Kher’s Saaransh. I think the audience must see it and also this character is considered different because he (Manoj) is homosexual.
BOI: You have had many special screenings for the industry, what kind of compliments did you get?
MB: There are too many. The best compliment that I got was from my guru and mentor Barry John. He said that he has become my fan. So for me my teacher saying that was the biggest compliment. He cried in front of everybody, he didn’t say anything at the time but later wrote me a mail. One thing that he wrote to me really touched my heart and I felt ki meri life safal ho gayi. I had a surreal moment when I realised that my mentor just told me that he has become my fan. You don’t give me any award, I am fine with it… I will live with this sentence for the rest of my life. Then Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) saab said to me, ‘Though you have given pathbreaking performances, Manoj, but this is your finest performance.’ So you know people who taught you directly or indirectly are affected by your work and by your film and that is the best thing that can happen to any creative person. And these are the people who don’t watch too many films but yet they watch few of my films and feel proud of me. I had never seen such pride in their eyes before Aligarh. They are not just saying good, bad or excellent but are discussing detailed nuances that we have worked on, very hard.