Cast: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Riddhi Sen, Lehar Khan, Sumeet Vyas, Adil Hussain and Sayani Gupta
Director: Leena Yadav
Producer: Ajay Devgn
Writer: Leena Yadav
Claps: Vibrant story-telling, Performances
Slaps: Radhika Apte's rural accent seem to slip off at certain junctures, the male characters in the film lack a depth as they either come off as too villainous or sweet as pie
What's New: In the age of remakes, candyfloss romance and 'popcorn' entertainers 'Parched' comes off as a refreshing tale which talks about female subjugation and liberation in an engaging manner
Popcorn Refill: Interval
Plot: Set in a dusty fictional village called Ujhaas 'Parched' revolves around four women who dare to break free from the shackles of oppression, suffocating relationships, age-old customs and traditions.
At 32, Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) has been a widow for half of her life and longs to wed off her teenage son Gulab (Riddhi Sen) to a girl named Janaki (Lehar Khan) from the neighboring village even if she has to cough off a hefty dowry. Meanwhile Gulab has fallen into the wrong company of friends who are mostly interested in whores, booze, and filling into the shoes their fathers left behind. They fear the changes in the village's women that will come with progress and consider the local entrepreneur Kishan (Sumeet Vyas) and his north-eastern wife as a threat to the village.
Rani's best friend Lajjo (Radhika Apte), a skillful seamstress is regularly beaten up black and blue by her alcoholic husband on the pretext of her inability to conceive a child.
Rani and Lajjo are friends with a cabaret performer named Bijli (Surveen Chawla) from a touring troupe who also doubles up as a prostitute.
These women live in a society which is tightly bound by the brutal realities of a patriarchy society but nevertheless they still continue to find occasional happiness and laughter in small moments of life. Set aside their veil and in their private space they are unabashed about discussing love, sex and their dreams in life.
However their lives take a drastic turn when on the day of her son's marriage Rani discovers that Janaki has cut off all her hair thus bringing her shame in her village and earning Gulab's disdain, Lajjo continues to suffer heavy beatings from her husband and starts doubting about her 'barren' tag and Bijli finds out that a new girl might soon replace her in the troupe.
Thus begins their journey where each question their freedom to live their dreams and celebrate life and sexuality.
Performances: Tannishtha Chatterjee's Rani has the most complex character from the trio. She has been mistreated in her early days by her husband and mother-in-law and reflexively passes off this treatment to her daughter-in-law Janaki even if her heart knows that her son is at fault. Her transition from a victim to a perpetuator of oppression to a twist in the end is simply marvelous.
Radhika Apte's Lajjo is a free-spirited girl who doesn't mind chasing her dreams even if she has to pay a price for it. The actress plays her part with so much ease barring a few accent slip-offs.
Surveen Chawla gives a crackler of a performance as Bijli. She is brazen, uncouth and doesn't mind flaunting her sexuality. But underneath all these, she is simply a woman who longs to be loved and respected.
Sumit Vyas, the man who is known for 'Permanent Roommates' and 'TVF Triplings' surprises you with his rustic makeover.
Adil Hussain, Riddhi Sen and Lehar Khan lend a good support.
About the film: At the beginning of the film Leena Yadav thanks all those women who agreed to tell her their stories. 'Parched' is born from her travelogues to some of the remotest villages in Kutch. She might have chose to base her film in a fictional world but her characters are very much real. One of the strongest point of the film is the way Yadav has written her female protagonists. Yes, they are victims of sufferings at the hands of the masculine system but that doesn't deterred them by standing up for themselves, for their longings and desires.
Some of the best scenes in the film are the ones where we see Rani, Lajjo and Bijli bonding with each other away from the prying eyes of patriarchy wavers. They are sprinkled with light-hearted humor and vibrancy. The director touches upon grave issues like forced child marriages, financial difficulties, spousal and familial rape, the emotionally and physical abuse of women, in an engaging manner without choosing a dark palette. 'Parched' makes you smile but it even makes you wince in discomfort in your seats with all the brutality that comes in with rudimentary thoughts of a tightly controlled world helmed by questionable traditions and double standards.
However one wished that the film-maker had avoided her male characters from becoming monotonous. Barring a couple of loose strings here and there in the story which ain't convincing enough,'Parched' makes up for an interesting film.
Hitesh Sonik's music flows smoothly with the narrative. Russell Carpenter (who's shot films like 'Titanic' and the upcoming 'xXx: The Return Of Xander Cage) gives a subtle glow to the arid deserts and the vibrant colors of the frame blending it well with the turmoil and the varied emotions. Kevin Tent's editing makes it a crisp watch.
Combo-on-offer: Drama+ Emotions
Verdict: We give 'Parched' 'THUNDEROUS CLAPS' for its brave story-telling fueled by some kick-ass performances. After 'Pink' here's one more film which celebrates female power. Yadav chose to set free these oppressed women in the reel. The ball is in our court now in the real world!