April 19th (1994)

Dr. Sen is in the house!

Medical school graduate Aditi Sen (Debashree Roy) has come back to live with her mother (Aparna Sen). Her mother is a nationally famous, award-winning dancer. Soon enough, that leads to some friction between the Sens.

April 19th ( উনিশে এপ্রিল, Unishe April), a Bengali film directed by Rituparno Ghosh, was the winner of the 1994 Indian National Film Award for Best Picture and Best Actress.

I will say what I liked best about Unishe April is that I thought the family dynamic was interesting. The conflict between Aditi and her mother was very plausible. Admittedly it may be due to my Bengali upbringing, but I felt that I was in totally familiar territory as far as how family members interacted with one-another and exactly what would cause friction between people.

That said, the problem I had with this movie was something I rather prefer avoiding criticizing a movie for. That problem is that I was bored out of my mind. I actually needed two sittings to get through the movie, despite having a pretty standard length of a little over two hours long (typical Bollywood fare can get up to twice that length).

The issue arose from the fact that Unishe April was paced absolutely horrendously. Nothing started happening until about 40 minutes in. Even when things got rolling, I felt that many of the scenes lacked the impact they clearly sought out to create.

This is probably the first time where I felt a movie completely overdid it with the dialogue in general. There were many things Ghosh could have shown, and not told. What comes to mind is the discussion Aditi and her mother have toward the end of the film.

I didn’t really feel the acting was anything noteworthy in general. I felt it was most true of lead actress Roy. She completely failed to engage me emotionally as a viewer. She spent half the movie crying, and that got irritating really quickly because it actually looked pretty fake. Aparna Sen did a little better, but I felt like I generally found myself not really giving a damn about the characters.

Overall, was this movie a trainwreck of Twilight magnitude? No. Did I enjoy this movie? No. April 19th basically wound up being a rather mediocre drama with some rather trite themes that will likely cure you of insomnia.

Score: 2/4

Note: An issue I had was something I can’t really level at the movie itself, and that is that the DVD transfer was easily the worst I have ever seen. I’m not even talking about screen resolution here. I mean issues like suddenly saying to myself, “Holy crap, the movie is green!” More so than the horrendous picture quality, the sound mix was very problematic with ambient sound effects being as loud as the dialogue. A good example is the overly loud sound of a spoon scraping a bowl as a character scooped rice out of it. Also, as someone who hears spoken Bengali on a daily basis at home, I know “sh” sounds are not that distractingly audible.