Film: “Parched”; Director: Leena Yadav; Cast: Radhika Apte, Tannistha Chatterjee, Surveen Chawla, Leher Khan, Adil Hussain, Sumeet Vyas, Nancy Nisa Beso, Chandan Anand, Farukh Jaffer and Riddhi Sen; Rating: **1/2

A radical film – erotic drama, designed to fit into the festival circuit, director Leena Yadav’s “Parched” is a feeble attempt to draw eyeballs, and it succeeds to a certain extent.

Perceived and presented from a woman’s point of view, “Parched” is a slice-of-life and a generic representation of women in rural India. Without breaking any moulds, the film portrays the women in all hues, as victims of a sexist culture and their zest for joie-de-vivre.

It touches upon issues like child marriage, bad marriages which include spousal and familial rape, male abuse, societal pressures, male and female infertility, and liberation.

These issues have invariably been presented to the Indian audience in Hindi cinema, over a period of time, hence Yadav’s narrative lacks the novelty factor. But what keeps you glued are the performances and the bright colourful canvas on which it is drawn.

Set in a fictitious village called Ujhaas in rural India, the narrative concentrates on three friends; Rani (Tannistha Chatterjee) a young widow, Lajjo (Radhika Apte) an apparently barren woman who can’t conceive and Bijlee (Surveen Chawla), a dancer-cum-prostitute. They live in a tightly controlled universe, hemmed in by tradition, but in their private spaces, they experience freedom by talking about love, sex and their dreams for the future.

Their lives seem like an unending cycle of hardship punctuated by few moments of happiness. How they bond with each other and are pillars of support for one another, forms the crux of the tale.

The three leading ladies, fit the bill to perfection. Tannistha and Radhika, who have earlier, wooed the audiences with their histrionics, are no surprise. But it is Surveen Chawla, who with her erotic dances and strong performance, as the flamboyant character, Bijlee, steals the show.

All the male characters are reduced to stereotypical caricatures. Prominent among them are; Mahesh Balraj as Manoj – Lajjo’s drunk husband, Riddhi Sen as Gulab – Rani’s young and wayward son, Chandan Anand as Rajesh – Bijlee’s pimp. Nevertheless, they have their moments of on-screen glory.

Adil Hussain in a minuscule role as the mystic lover is wasted.

Leena Yadav’s direction is technically and aesthetically flawless. Her characters are battered souls, yet vibrant on a canvas that is full of colour and lively music. But, her script which offers a fair amount of voyeuristic pleasure, is a well-knit, one-dimensional misogynist narrative, where every male character from the elders to the youngsters, except for the social worker Krishan (Sumeet Vyas), are portrayed in a negative light.

Also, the dialect used in the film and the inclusion of Rajasthani folk music, though they complement each other, could be an issue for a purist.

Mounted on a moderate scale, with brilliant production values, the village with its fair amount of entertainment is well-captured by ace Hollywood cinematographer Russel Carpenter, who has films like “True Lies”, “Titanic” and “Ant-Man” to his credit. Every frame of his, in this film is picture perfect and thus a treat to watch.

Overall, “Parched” does not quench your thirst completely but leaves you wanting more.

By Troy Ribeiro

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