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Parched  : Thirsting For Freedom
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Friday, September 23, 2016
Drama
Leena Yadav
Tannishtha Chatterjee,Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Adil Hussain, Lehar Khan, Riddhi Sen, Sayani Gupta

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.

 

While Pink 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 Indian audience.

 

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 lives.

 

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.

 

Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan
Senior Journalist & Author

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