As women-centric films receive more exposure, ‘Parched’ has a different setting and message. With Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Tannishta Chatterjee in lead roles, director Leena Yadav (‘Shabd’ and ‘Teen Patti’) throws light on life in rural India for three friends, who overcome the hurdles of life, till they decide to take things in their own hands, despite the values of society.
Lajjo (Radhika Apte), Rani (Tannishta Chatterjee) and Surveen Chawla (Bijli) lead three different lives in the same village. Each one is treated differently by men. Lajjo suffers from a drunken husband, Rani is divorced since 15 years and Bijli is a sex worker who is mostly ill-treated by men. The story revolves around the three protagonists in many different sub-plots. Lajjo’s insecurity as a woman results for not having a child from her husband, Rani’s efforts to marry her son (Ridhhi Sen) happens but faces some trouble and Bijli’s on-going issues with her work, including her boss and her audience in the village are shown aptly. The story moves at an average pace, with no major twists as such, until each one of them has to deal with their own everyday worries to the extent, where they need each other’s help. The sexual intensity in the movie is aesthetically displayed and justifies each scene. How elders take decisions for the village, how much knowledge villagers have on sexuality and how men are seen in the eyes of village women are all depicted. The crux of the story is when the women want their lives, according to their wants and desires and things get hard for each one of them.
Radhika Apte incarnates Lajjo with ease, subtly passing for the unknowledgeable village girl, varies her facial expressions as per the situations and does not mince her words towards her preference for sexual satisfaction. Her camaraderie with the other two protagonists is clearly laid out. The bold scenes are performed professionally and it shows that she can handle such scenes, which help the script. Tannishta Chatterjee remains consistent in all her scenes; penching for a rather pensive and not-so-ready mood to push the boundaries until the plot develops further. Her portrayal of a divorced woman and a responsible mother adds depth to the character. At no point, one feels that she over-reacts to any situations and she faces life calmly and with conviction. Surveen Chawla as Bijli shines because she goes through a lot of turbulence in her personal and professional life. She is also the catalyst which moves the story forward and pushes for things to happen, which eventually lead to consequences for her, while she is away from her routine, caring for her friends.
In supporting roles, Riddhi Sen, Lehar Khan, Chandan Anand and Summet Vyaas manage their part decently. Adil Hussain appears in only one scene.
Cinematography by Rusell Carpenter is first-class and he captures the right background for most of the pivotal scenes. Hitesh Sonik’s music is good and does not seem forced into the narrative.
The theme of women empowerment is briefly explored but Leena Yadav shifts the focus on sexual awakening and the need for sex in any women’s life, whether she needs it or not, as an underlying message. The violence in some scenes are totally unwanted and breaks the storyline, especially in the second half. Mixing too much femininity and machoism in the same movie is highly debatable. The lack of gloss is represented on screen by all characters and is a strong factor for this quasi art film.
‘Parched’ does not aim to please the audience – it actually confuses the audience as the erotic-drama does not manage to deliver its message in a succinct manner but nevertheless, provides a story which can be related by many in rural India. The story borrows from realistic experiences faced by women in small villages where they have to face life and its circumstances with courage, despite their intentions to do the right thing. The language is explicit but at times, one expected the director to be more realistic in some scenes to give it a logical ending for all characters, instead of just the main protagonists. A wonderful blend of erotica, women empowerment and friendship add sufficient layers to a script with no lead male characters, with a mixed message but a pleasant viewing for those interested, without any thought-provoking ending.