Review: Parched is a coming of age story of a different kind
Posted on 27 September, 2016 by Team Wishberry
After a yearlong wait since its premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2015, Leena Yadav’s Parched finally released in theatres in India. And there is a lot to rejoice about that fact.
Parched is a story of four women – Rani, Lajjo, Bijli and Janaki – who, in the course of the film, explore sexuality, love, affection, strength and eventually find their freedom.
Rani is a widow who cares a lot about what society thinks, Lajjo is branded barren and given hell for it, but is comparatively free-spirited. Bijli (Surveen Chawla) is an erotic dancer who also has sex with men for money. But, she is a baller when it comes to having fun. She is a friend of Rani and Lajjo, and the trio talk about everything – sex, love, dreams, aspirations – when in their personal space. Janaki (Leher Khan) is a young girl, married to Rani’s son against her will.
The plot of the film is basically these four women helping each other out of their lives shackled with patriarchy, age-old practices and a regressive lifestyle. Gulab, Rani’s son gets married to Janaki, but he hates her. Rani is dealing with debts, a family, and a son who is getting out of hand with his alcoholism and uncouth behaviour. Lajjo is childless and dealing with an abusive husband. Both Rani and Lajjo work with a local handicrafts entrepreneur Kishan (Sumeet Vyas). Bijli is facing difficulties as her boss is looking to replace her with another woman. How they get out of their problems and snatch their freedom forms the crux of the heart-soaring story that is Parched.
It is a coming of age story of four women, who mature in their own different ways whether it is exploring the possibility of romance, sexual pleasure or breaking out of their lives which they have accepted however bad.
The innocence and naivety of the women amplifies the humour quotient. Their actions will at times make you laugh, even blush for them. The film is cute in parts. And in parts, it takes up the role of a revolutionary. You don’t realize just how strongly you’re rooting for the characters – that’s how real and sincere they are.
The story is beautifully strung together, and the characters fit the puzzle perfectly. The film moves fast, despite the slower rural life portrayed; such is the story. Parched brings to the fore a lot of elements that urban world mostly doesn’t think about – treatment of women, the introduction of technology and small-time entrepreneurship, education, and how all of that is changing the dynamics of rural life.
We have experienced the brilliance of Tannishtha Chatterjee and Radhika Apte before, and Parched only strengthens their place as two of the best actresses in the country. But the surprise package comes in the form of Surveen Chawla. She has embodied the erotic dancer slash fun-loving, baller of a person that Bijli is. Bijli is the one who sows the seeds of revolution and Surveen Chawla executes it formidably. Leher Khan as Janaki is also someone to watch out for. Her shift from the submissive and obedient, to standing up to her abusive husband, yet remaining incredibly caring throughout is so seamlessly beautiful.
But perhaps one of the most unforgettable performances is that of Mahesh Balraj as Manoj, Lajjo’s husband. He will have you hate him yet be amazed at his transition from a nice, fun guy to a drunk maniac time and again, without appearing forced.
Parched is a visual treat too! Oscar winning cinematographer Russell Carpenter has assured that the visuals are not boring. The close-ups, the silhouettes, the moving shots are all beautifully done. It keeps the film lively, and the colours of Rajasthan are used effectively against the desert backdrop.
And how can one forget the background score. You don’t expect to find jazz playing as a background for rural Rajasthan, and yet it’s there. And guess what, it fits like a dream. The background score infuses extra life and zest into a film that’s already such a remarkable adventure. For example, the scene where Rani, Lajjo and Bijli are riding off on a day trip on the funky bike, the befitting funky beats in the background make it look as fun as it is supposed to be.
All the credit goes to Leena Yadav. Her writing is sublime, and the direction impeccable. Yadav has had her share of international accolades for the film, but with the theatrical release in India, she is bound to shift to a higher position in terms of expectations from the audience; and rightly so. A film like Parched cannot go unnoticed, and its maker will be revered for years to come.
Parched is a movie to be watched, by everyone, for joy, for insight, for experiencing a tryst with freedom, and for the sense of adventure it holds like a kid holding his favorite candy. Such delights are hard to come by – dive into it while you can.