by Somdutta Roy
TLR Rating: 9 Reels.
Rituparno Ghosh – the name itself is enough to stir a deep sense of pride and a fade sense of grief in every Bengali’s conscious. He has always given the film world gems to cherish for their lifetime. From “Hirer Anghti” and “Bariwali” to “Aar Ek Ti Premer Golpo” and ‘Raincoat’, each story is unique in its own way, but one thing which these flawless solitaires had in common was the mere sense of simple and raw storytelling.
One such beautiful example of plain sailing but outstanding filmmaking is his second film, “Unishe April” (19th of April) which released in 1994 and won the National Film Award for ‘Best Feature Film’ and why not!!! It deserved every accolade which came through its way.
The movie started by putting the audience in that sad girdle of mourning which makes them sure that someone had died. From the conversation of people, we come to know that a young girl, Mithu has lost her father and she was the one to find him in that bizarre condition of a cardiac arrest and that surely makes us feel bad for the young soul. We also come to know that the mother of the girl is somewhere far and that the relatives don’t really appreciate her much but what confirms the disesteemed character of the mother is when the daughter hung with her life to her nanny and refuses to meet her mother.
This brief introduction set the platform of a mother-daughter love-hate relationship and the audience felt it quite strongly. That was the power of Rituparno: ‘giving more in less”.
Now we are into a scene eighteen years later on the same calendar day and the same house, but now filled with dance students being taught by the mother, Sarojini Gupta, and containing a slightly irritated Mithu (the very talented Debashree Roy) in another room; young and appealing, waiting for the dancers to leave. She seems to be waiting for a phone call eagerly. Rituparno Ghosh lets us know the identity of the unkown within a short time through a crisp flashback of Mithu reminding her beloved boyfriend (Prasenjit Chatterjee) to call her on this particular day; the day she has mourned her entire lifetime, the day she had lost her father:19th of April. We come to know the meaning behind the film’s unique name!! Oh the purity of all of it!! We also see her changing the calendar date and later asking her nanny to bring flowers and incense sticks with her money and not anyone else’s. This tiny incident eloquently explains that not only she did love him to the core but also that she considered her father to be survived only by her and not by anyone else (the mother of course). This also strengthens our idea of Mithu hating her mother a bit more.
Rituparno makes us curious about who the mother is and what has she done so amoral to make her daughter hate her. Then comes the cherry on top moment when he reveals the mother, Sarojini Gupta to played by none other than the legendary actress-turned-director Aparna Sen (obviously who could have done it better!!).
As the movie continues we come to know that she is an award winning dancer turned expert trainer and is yet to win another award for her contribution to dance. Her bosom friend and guide, Somnath (Dipankar Dey) and her daughter who is still waiting for her phone call are with her during the important phone call. Mithu congratulates her mother in an icy polite way, which irks the latter somewhat. Her formal behavior towards her mother is also prominent when we find her saying “thanks” to her mother every now and then.
The next point of note comes in the movie when Mithu finally receives her phone call to learn that her boyfriend, for whom she was ready to give up her career of becoming a doctor (the one which she chose to accomplish to grow up to be just like her father), wants to break up with her as his mother can’t allow him to marry a dancer’s girl. Oh, the hypocrisy! She is found crying and yelling as she cannot take the news and also gives a stern reply to her mother on being asked why she is sitting in a morose manner. That was the first outburst of the daughter.
The telephone is intricately shown as a character in the story. It becomes the reason behind the ever-so-little conversations between Mithu and Sarojini. Both wait by the table, albeit for different reasons, and the audience gets a glimpse of the cold war between them. It serves as the harbinger of news- good and bad, in a span of moments, and sets in motion a spate of events which would shape up the movie and the lives of the protagonists.
We are also shown the mother’s side, effortlessly played by Aparna Sen that she is not the woman to run after her daughter for her approval of her style of living or anything else. She feels that she has always been misunderstood by her daughter, this showing the communication gap between the two.
Mithu has fully broken down, crying to bits and obviously is up to something as she asks her nanny to bring her some pills (probably sleeping pills which we come to know about later in the movie), then later asking her to leave for the night. We are terrified, she has the motive, she has the source and she is alone as her mother has also left to meet her “Guruji”. What can she Do??!!
Yes, yes, we are right. She is probably trying to end her life. She has finished her letter and is about to take the pills. We are in a nail biting situation as we don’t want the movie to end like this. Respite occurs when the door knocks and Mithu finds her mother drenched in rain as she has missed her flight and we take a sigh of relief! Whew!!
And now finally with the mother-daughter duo all alone, a heart-to-heart drama is expected and we get it, heart-felt confessions, tears and a lot of past digging. It starts with the mother finding the suicide note, slapping her daughter and breaking down to tears thinking what would have happened if she wouldn’t have missed the flight. A face to face confrontation ultimately happens between the two. Sarojini reveals her side of the story that Mithu’s father could never adjust with the fact that his wife had more fame than him and his insecurities finally killed the relationship despite the sacrifices she had made.
It’s hard for Mithu to believe that her father could be anywhere near to the figure her mother is asking her to believe. She has always looked up to him and had always considered her mother to be the villain as she never had time for her and gave her career more importance.
Finally, when dawn breaks, both the mother and daughter are able to strip away some of their misunderstandings, leaving them both irreversibly changed. They hug and cry and pamper each other showing us the true sense of liberation one feels when one is unburdened from the vexation one carries.
It was something which left a deep imprint on my heart and would surely do the same to you. If you like perfection with simplicity, you ought to treasure the film. Hats off!!
The author has always been intrigued by the stories we read and see, as we are in one ourselves. She loves watching sci-fi, suspense-thrillers, and adventure / action films and for her the whole world is divided into two types of people: one which loves harry potter and the other who doesn’t exist for her!!!