Parched – a story of hope, a story of dreams.

Four women, four different stories, each of them struggle in their own life connected to each other by hope. At the end of the day, they are left along to fight their own demons, and stage their own personal wars. Parched is a hard hitting story of four Rajasthan women, who live in a tightly controlled male subjugated society, hemmed in by custom. They unrepentantly talk about love, sex, their dreams and struggles in their day-to-day life.

 

Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a 30 something widow lives in a rural Rajasthan village with her 17 year old son Gulab (Riddhi Sen). She herself, married as a child, struggles against her 17 year old son’s dowry and marriage to Jaanki (Lehar Khan), a neighbor’s daughter who is hardly 15. Gulab is in the midst of a wrong crowd in the village who don’t believe in women’s education or development and are more interested in prostitutes & booze.

 

Rani’s best friend Lajjo (Radhika Apte), is thrilled that her best friend’s son is getting married and that she will become grand mom soon. She herself has been made to believe by her alcoholic husband (Mahesh Balraj) that she can’t conceive a child and is subjected to torture by her husband regularly. Lajjo is also a skilled seamstress. She and Rani, along with other women, work for a local entrepreneur Kishan (Sumeet Vyas) and are saving for the village to finally get a satellite and television—their first real connection to the outside world.

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Bijli (Surveen Chawla) who is a close friend of both these women is an erotic dancer in a performing troupe and also a prostitute who entertains clients made weak by desire.

 

Jaanki, who has been disowned by her husband Gulab dreams of completing her education and standing on her own feet. She is subjected to torture from Rani briefly before being married off by her to a young man from her village at the tail end of the story.

 

Life moves like an interminable cycle of soreness and small delights when it all breaks down into pieces. Rani found out that Jaanki’s hair has been cut off, dishonoring her in her village. That results in Gulab rejecting her and going after wrong women and booze. Manoj’s cruelty towards Lajjo grows more and more severe. Bijli finds out a new girl might substitute her.

 

A rural village where decade old traditions are fast changing but women are still being treated shabbily and fiercely. The Director Leena Yadav has made an honest attempt to show something unusual and a movie which is made for festive circuits not the regular Indian audience. Keeping pace with all the four stories while keeping in sync with the connecting characters is a wearisome task which the Director has handled very delicately. Almost all the men in the movie play villain barring Kishan who has played a compassionate character. But the cruelty goes undeterred and he is brutally killed for trying to bring change to village and making the women empowered.

 

Even though the male characters play villains in the movie, the women are not much better  mainly Rani, Lajjo and Bijli. Lajjo though subjected to torture by her husband frequently, lives for his approval all the time. Rani is fully aware of her dark days when she was agonized by her husband and mother-in-law still treats Jaanki with disdain and neglect. Bijli seems open-minded but can’t find a way to free herself for a life without a man. All three women are parched for everything; for passion, for love, for sex, for freedom but don’t have the audacity to liberate themselves for the life they are so in quest of.

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These conflicts of minds keep the movie appealing and startling. Russell Carpenter’s (“Titanic”) cinematography makes the village garishly alive and full of color. The movie has music, sex but more than that it sincerely shows the strength of the four beautiful women of a remote village who are smart, articulate, skillful, who make the dry land like one ringed in beauty.

 

Based on a completely illusory story, Parched written and directed by Leena Yadav shows forced child marriages, financial difficulties, spousal and familial rape, physical and emotional abuse by alcoholic husbands. All drawn from real life incidents of rural Rajasthan when she travelled to Rajasthan and spoke to the women there to find their story. This is her effort to show how these women desire to live regardless of being bound by the tradition, mental and physical abuse.

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