Parched review – Quenches the thirst of sensible cinema lovers

Leena Yadav's drama is hard-hitting and powerful.

Keyur Seta

Film: Parched

Rating: 3.5/5

In today’s day and age, the demand for gender equality is at an all time high and rightly so. But even in 2016, there are places where women are not even treated as human beings, let alone being provided equal status to men. This harsh reality is explored by director Leena Yadav in Parched and in doing so, has presented a poignant drama that makes a powerful statement. 

The story is set in a remote village in Rajasthan, which is known for treating its women in the most inhuman manner. Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), Lajjo (Radhika Apte) and Bijli (Surveen Chawla) are close friends. Rani is a widow living with her old mother-in-law and spoilt teenage son Gulab (Riddhi Sen). As per the regular practice, she marries her son off to a girl younger than him, Janaki (Lehar Khan). Rani feels she has successfully carried off her responsibility as a mother, but that turns out to be an illusion. 

Lajjo is bereft of a child despite being married for many years. The village folk look down upon her for this, while her elderly husband regularly inflicts atrocities. Bijli lives a life completely different from her two friends. She is a dancer-turned-prostitute. The entire village abhors even her mere presence. She seems to live an independent life, but that is far from the truth. Will the three friends ever succeed in changing their lives for the better? 

The basic motto here was to make the audience aware about the adverse treatment to women even in the current times. Yadav succeeds in doing so mostly because she doesn’t use the done-to-death conventional method of presentation and narration. Through a glimpse into the lives of the main characters and their everyday conversations and happenings, we are shown the shocking reality of India in 2016. In other words, the film says a lot without any preaching. 

Despite the subject being tragic, the film isn’t treated that way. The delightful bond between Rani, Lajjo and Bijli provides regular humour. The character of Bijli is hugely different from the other two, but their friendship appears natural. There is a subtle Shah Rukh Khan angle that deserves special mention.

But Parched is much more than just a revelation of a stark reality. It is also a story of silent revolution and hope. Thankfully, these aspects too are depicted by keeping all kinds of clichés at bay. Although an incident leading up to the finale might not be as convincing, the very last scene provides a heartwarming feeling through its symbolism. The only drawback here is that a couple of important incidents are treated casually.

Parched has received great acclaim at various film festivals abroad. So, to see its technical areas rise up to international levels doesn’t come as a surprise. Russell Carpenter's artistic camerawork is full of pleasant, vibrant visuals of traditional Rajasthan. The songs composed by Hitesh Sonik ooze Rajasthani flavour and are a treat to the ears. 

A film of this genre and subject relies a lot on performances. The fine cast over here rise to the occasion and provide powerhouse acts. Tannishtha Chatterjee makes the character of a mother from an outrageously regressive society completely believable. She also manages to switch over from being oppressed to oppressor, as per need, with ease. This is yet another performance that compels one to include Radhika Apte’s name in the list of top performers of today. She succeeds in bringing various shades of Lajjo alive. 

Chawla is perfect for the character of a dancer and prostitute. Apart from being bold and bindaas, she scores in emotional sequences too. This act is expected to bring her in the limelight like never before. Sen is truly real as Rani’s brainwashed teenage son. Khan is remarkable too as Rani’s daughter-in-law. She carries out the difficult task of speaking through expressions. The film has a series of fine supporting acts by Sumeet Vyas, Chandan Anand, Mahesh Balraj, Nancy Nisa Beso and few others. Sayani Gupta leaves behind a terrfic impact in a cameo. But the same can’t be said about Adil Hussain. 

Overall, Parched is the kind of hard-hitting cinema that the lovers of offbeat cinema will enjoy. 

Director: Leena Yadav
Producers: Aseem Bajaj, Ajay Devgn, Rohan Jagdale, Gulab Singh Tanwar and Leena Yadav
Writers: Leena Yadav and Supratik Sen
Cast: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Riddhi Sen, Lehar Khan, Sumeet Vyas
Music: Hitesh Sonik
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 118 minutes