This week our nation was rocked by the ghastly attack in Uri which claimed the life of 17 of our brave soldiers. Even as our country grapple from constant militant attacks in Kashmir we have also been plagued with many other grave problems with injustice against women being prominent among them. If last week saw "Pink" address the problems that a lady faces in the urban society, then this week we have "Parched" addressing it from a rural background. This movie has been in the news for the much talked about intimate scenes between Adil Hussain & Radhika Apte which to be frank got the publicity that it needed prior to release. So will it be able to win over the box-office just as it did at the film festivals???
The film unfolds in a Rajasthani village where women were shackled by age old traditions in a patriarchal society. Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) was a young widow trying to get her teenage son married off to a beautiful bride in the neighbouring village even though it meant mortgaging whatever she had. She had two close buddies, one of them being Lajoo (Radhika Apte) & Bijli (Surveen Chawla), the lead erotic dancer & prostitute in the region. Both Rani & Lajoo were financially independent thanks to the small scale crafting industry that was set up in the village by Kishan (Sumeet Vyas) which irked many of the men in the village at the idea of women becoming bread earners in the family.. However, each of them had problems of their own as Rani's son Gulab disliked his mother's choice & created ruckus with his loafer friends, Lajoo was repeatedly abused by her alcoholic husband for being infertile while Bijli had to stave off the challenge posed by a younger dancer in her troupe. But whatever might be their issues, they always confided in each other which enabled them to deal with it in the best way possible. So will these three friends ever manage to break off from the living hell they had subjected themselves to day in & day out???
Leena Yadav has helmed this project who already has "Shabd" & "Teen Patti" to her credit both of which were unconventional & failed to impress the audience. In her latest venture which she has scripted as well, she has touched upon various problems that women in rural areas still face which we are pretty much aware of. What actually makes the movie click is the manner in which the characterization of the female leads has been done & the relationship they share which allows them to discuss everything with each other unabashedly. As many of us are aware, the film initially came into the news primarily due to the love making sequence & other such similar instances which was brilliantly picturised by Academy Award Winner Russell Carpenter who has movies like "Titanic". "True Lies" etc to his credit. But I felt that some of the sequences didnt add much to the storyline be it the mystic lover's angle which seemed more like a class on Kamasutra which the West will lap up or the Shahrukh Khan phone calls.
Surveen Chawla was the pick among the lot as she was brilliant as the spirited female who lights up the screen with her presence inspite of an undeniable sense of vulnerability behind her bold exterior. Radhika was a natural as the battered wife & essayed the love making scenes with utmost ease while Taanisha was spot on with her characterization as well. Lehar Khan who plays the role of Taanisha's daughter in-law was impressive as well along with Sumeet Vyas. The rest of the cast, have also done their parts aptly.
Verdict: As mentioned earlier, the erotic scenes will generate a certain deal of interest in the movie but the off-beat content will not be to the liking of the majority. The film definitely deserves an audience as it does have a decent storyline which speaks about the travails of three women that are inflicted of them both emotionally & physically. In short, wont hurt to give it a try!!!
Parched is a brilliant, unconventional and powerful film by Leena Yadav. It is Leena’s third directorial film after Shabd and Teen Patti. The film premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. It has been very much appreciated in various International Film Festivals and bagged many awards too. Academy award winning cinematographer Russel Carpenter and Academy Award nominated editor Kevin Tent have collaborated with Leena Yadav for Parched.
Although Leena has used Rural India and its women as the premise, the story is somewhere related to all of us irrespective of which part of the country we live in. The rural society and women in the film are mere representations of the larger whole. It tells us the stories of women deciding to put an end to the oppressions faced and change the course of their lives for better. The best thing about the film is that although the subject of the film has covered many serious issues which are prevalent in our Country (be it child marriage, abusive husbands, women looked at as commodities, women getting ostracized if opinionated and educated etc.) which need to be eliminated completely, the tone of the film is not at all depressing. Rather, the protagonists in the film are not shown to be sad or crying in despair, but they chose to outgrow their sufferings, take bold steps, be rebellious, smiling even while suffering. The film shows frank conversations about sex and sexuality amongst females which are very candid. Frontal nudity of the actresses are also shown, blended so well with the plot and shot so gracefully. The film showcases how intolerant we as a society are towards women without even being apologetic about how they are treated (or mistreated). But the best part is that the film is not preachy at all, rather it talks about the incredible spirit of women even when they are at low phase in their lives.
It is the story of three women Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), Lajjo (Radhika Apte), Bijli (Surveen Chawla). Rani is a widow, who lost her husband 15 years ago and lives with mother-in-law and son Gulab (Ridhi Sen). Lajjo is married to Manoj (Mahesh Balraj), but often get physically abused by him for being childless. Bijli is a dancer and a good friend of Rani. Bijli has a reputation of being a seductress. Her clients are managed by Rajesh (Chandan K Anand). Rajesh seems to be completely in love with Bijli.
Initial scenes show Rani and Lajjo going to fix Rani’s young son Gulab’s marriage to 15-year old Janki (Lehar Khan). Although Gulab gets married, he does not find Janki as per his expectations. Gulab is a spoilt brat. Meanwhile, it is shown Panchayat taking decision to send Champa (Sayani Gupta) to her abusive husband and in-laws who also force themselves on her. The village also has good souls like Kishan (Sumeet Vyas) and Naobi, his wife (Nancy Nisa Beso) working for the betterment of the village. Kishan runs a boutique for village women to work there and earn as well.
What happens when Rani, Lajjo, Bijli start questioning the oppressive rules prevailing in in traditional society? How Rani deals with her son’s irresponsible and abusive behaviour? Did Rani miss a man in her life since she had early marriage and lost husband also too early? Was she in isolation? How Lajjo deals with her physically abusive husband ? How does Lajjo handle her being childless? What unconventional /rebellious mode Lajjo try? How Bijli handles the love of Rajesh towards her? Was Rajesh actually in love with her?
The various characters of the film are etched out so thoughtfully and the cast is awesome. Tannishtha as Rani represents a woman who is living in isolation since years, hasn’t been touched or loved by a man. Radhika as Lajjo represents an ambivert woman, who gets succumbed to abuses from her husband and bears it all thinking that it is her fault that she is childless. Surveen as Bijli represents an unconventional, free spirited woman, who is bold in front of the world but very soft from inside, at the same time not ready to yield to the men who take her to be an object of desire, passion, sex etc. Lehar as Janki is the representation of young girls, who dreams of studying and be independent, but forced to marry at an early age due to family / societal pressure. Nancy as Naobi represents an educated, balanced woman who intends to extend her help for the upliftment of society. All the female characters have given great moving performances with special mention to Tannishtha, Radhika and Surveen for their outstanding performances.
Chandan as Rajesh, Mahesh as Manoj have also given very much credible performances. Chandan represents a man, who is spite of loving a woman, might never be able to see her beyond her professions, might not be able to see the real beautiful person who is within that woman. Manoj is a representation of male dominated society. Gulab represents typical young arrogant teenager, who wants to explore in his life, also inherits patriarchic attitude. Summet as Kishan represents a man who respects women for what they are and also believes in being a change catatlyst himself.
I don’t want to spill the beans by talking about these two actors Adil Hussain and Chetan Sharma and their respective roles in the film, since that is to be watched in the film. Adil Hussain is a mystic lover, a short but very powerful representation of men, who have regard for women and their beauty and also believes that lovemaking is an art. Chetan has less screen time as Heera, but a very significant role and representation of young, educated men respecting the very word love. He is balanced in love and does not go overboard even when he lost his love, did not turn out to be an obsessive lover, but kept his love alive in spite of losing his girl. Both Adil and Chetan have given short but very much remarkable performances.
There are many scenes which need special mention, but I don’t want to do so since that may hamper your experience of watching the film. Many moments are representation of our societal norms, rules etc. One thing which I felt was that the very last dialogue of Bijli could have been avoided, since it came across to me that we women ourselves want to brand us in a particular manner and even while planning to chart out altogether different trajectory, the residue of the past remains.
Parched is a brilliant, unconventional, non-preachy and powerful film by Leena Yadav. Every character in the film is etched out so thoughtfully. It showcases the incredible spirits of lead female protagonists even amidst personal loss / sorrows. Irrespective of its characters and the plot set up in the rural India, the film is all about humanity, with which universally people can connect and relate to. The key message of Parched is emancipation, to free from the shackles of so-called unhealthy societal norms. A must-watch.