I first watched Parched right after my mid-terms upon the insistence of a friend of mine. There was controversy lingering with the movie (well, in India there is controversy about everything). This particular love-making scene in the movie had caused a lot of stirrup with the Censorship Board in India.
I have watched the movie seven times since then. It is a movie that hits too close to home, which is why I watch it at least once every six months to smile and shed a few cathartic drops of tears. Written and directed by Leena Yadav, Parched is the movie with the strongest performances by strong women.
Parched is one of those Bollywood movies that you should watch. Either you love Bollywood or don’t, just watch the movie because it will haunt you with its relevance. Parched is a movie about four women in an obscure village in Rajasthan India, a deserted area (indeed, a desert). It portrays the real evils of misogyny, marital abuse and rape, child marriage and dowry, patriarchy, sexism and bigotry and hits too close to home.
Playing on words, Parched stands not only to attribute to the arid conditions of the village the movie is set in, but also refers to the thirst and quest of these women who are victims to misogyny.
The movie is wonderfully real showing three women we might not be but can relate to way more than anything. There’s the character of Lajjo (played by the artistic Radhika Apte), a woman who’s abused every day in her marriage because she can’t bear children. There’s Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a young widowed mother who is trying to do her son right by engaging in misogynistic practices and looking for a child bride for her son, Janki (Lehar Khan). And, finally there’s Bijli (Suvreen Chawla), a seductive dancer and sex worker from a troupe who dances for male village elders.
In the first few minutes into the movie, you can find the Sarpanch (elected village elders) discussing the fate of a woman who runs away after being repeatedly raped by various members of her in-law’s family. She is forced to return to her household. This throws light on the disgusting reality of marital rape not being criminalized in India. Such incidences follow suit.
An amalgamation of stories, the movie throws light on the patriarchy existing in each and every part of the Indian society. However, the movie doesn’t highlight Indian rural women as prudes and conservatives. These women have sexual desires (and in the course of the movie gain sexual gratification) who engage in dialogues relating to sex. Bijli is proud of her sexual prowess and proud of her ability to satisfy men “like an earthquake”. You empathize with the carnal desires of the women that aren’t getting gratified.
The most beautiful aspect of the movie is the delicate friendship between these three women. Lajjo, Bijli and Rani know that they are victims to the Indian patriarchal set-up and thus keep finding hope and happiness in each other. They are women who want to pull each other up, crack sexual innuendos, explore each other, and believe in each other. Their friendship is the most superior aspect of the movie.
Leena Yadav’s direction is miraculous. Apte, Chatterjee and Chawla make their respective characters come alive. With brilliant accent delivery, and pure innocence and joy in their faces, these women try to overthrow the misogynistic village by empowering themselves. There are hints of intimacy between Rani and Lajjo who share wonderful chemistry. Their fight and eventual struggle against their respective households and situations bring all four of them together. They mesh well and it is heartbreaking to watch their struggles.
I would not sell Janki short as well. Janki, Rani’s daughter-in-law is a child bride, forced to engage in sex with her husband. She has a childhood sweetheart but money fails them to get married to one another. Janki’s perseverance in the movie is heartbreaking but nonetheless important.
There is a wonderful sex scene in the movie with Adil Hussain, but I wouldn’t reveal much because I don’t want to spoil the movie. But this scene is more spiritual and divine, than anything normal. Adil’s character kisses the feet of the woman to show her respect and I shed drops of tears upon realizing how sex can be respectful along with being carnal.
With heart-wrenching and stellar performances, and wonderful cinematography of Oscar winner Russell Carpenter, you will be moved by every aspect of the movie. It will leave you thirsting for more.
So go and give Parched a watch and get yourself another favorite.