Comparisons with last week’s Pink will be inevitable because both films unequivocally question
society’s mindset about women.
However, the similarities end right there.
went into the identifiable lives of three modern working girls from Delhi, Parched takes us into a small village
where men and panchayats rule, where mobile phones ‘allowed’ to women are
blamed for an elopement and permission has to be sought for a community
television. For the multiplex viewer,
Parched is a world oft seen in bits and pieces in Hindi cinema where village
women talk sex like they did way back in Aruna Raje’s Rihaee.
However, director Leena Yadav brings together three
lives to spotlight the crudeness with which women are still treated in the
mobile phone era. In the centre is Rani
who has mortgaged her house to pay dowry for a girl for her son Gulab who
thinks it’s manly to feast on sleaze. Her besties are Lajjo and Bijli the
worldly wise dancer and whore of the village who comes with her baggage of
dreams unfulfilled. Lajjo is regularly beaten by her husband for being barren.
The female bonding is deep and sometimes while nursing
the other’s wounds, empathy can give a hint of lesbianism as it does when Rani
quietly puts balm on Lajjo after she’s been beaten black and blue again. Rani
has her own yearnings after an abusive marriage ended 15 years ago with the
death of her husband.
It’s when Lajjo realises that her desire for
motherhood can come true if she sleeps with a virile man that Leena Yadav goes
into territory worthy of applause. She has cinematographer Russell Carpenter of
Titanic fame, frame one of the most aesthetically shot lovemaking scenes
between Radhika Apte as Lajjo and Adil Hussain in a brief Sufi-like appearance.
Lajjo lies back and lifts her skirt because that’s how men like her husband
have sex. But the man she sleeps with to have a baby, introduces her to
foreplay and lovemaking which o course comes with censorious blurs for the
For Rani, the liberation comes when she watches her
son beat up her daughter-in-law and it’s like a replay of what she, Lajjo and
other women have been through. By setting her young bahu free, Rani takes the first step to liberating herself. The
three friends hit the road feeling a freedom they’ve been denied all their
Leena Yadav’s narrative is stark but straightforward
and she tells her story compellingly with women in the audience free to pick up
whatever they’d want to identify with.
For a film that attempts to free rural society of stereotype mindsets, Parched
gets a 3* rating.
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author