Free Press Journal

Parched: Evocative, but lacks emotive appeal


Film: Parched
Cast: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Surveen Chawla, Radhika Apte, Sayani Gupta, Adil Hussain, Sumeet Vyas, Mahesh Balraj, Chandan Anand, Riddhi Sen, Tanya Sachdeva, Lehar Khan
Director: Leena Yadav

Rating: * * *

Runtime: 116 mins

Starved of love, affection and caring, the three women who form an unlikely bond with each other, Rani(Tannishtha Chatterjee), Lajjo(Radhika Apte) and Bijli(Surveen Chawla) struggling with life’s emotional calamities while existing in the desert village of Ujhaas, find their way to a liberation that brings back hope into their lives.

This film written and directed by Leena Yadav has it’s heart in the right place but it’s emotive outreach is very much suspect. It almost appears like the scriptwriter manages to patch up as many atrocities on the women in her plot to provide for the drama that though ethnically and culturally is rendered perfectly, seems a little contrived and therefore manipulative. It’s a sort of mash-up of Mirch Masala, Fire and Mrityudand. The set-up is gritty and true and the follow-through is quite logical and believable though.

Rani(Tannishtha Chatterjee) a young widow has just paid Rs 4 lakhs for her son Gulab’s (Riddhi Sen) child bride Janaki( Lehar Khan). But when the marriage party that includes her bestie Lajjo(Radhika Apte) goes to welcome the new bride into their home, they are in for a shock. Her long tresses are shorn off and her bridegromm is not amused. He leaves her for days together while getting sexually trained by a whore. In the meanwhile Janaki’s former lover (Chandan Roy Sanyal) pays infrequent visite to her marital home in order to check on her welfare. Lajjo, branded as barren is lured into taking on a lover(Adil Hussain) by Bijli(Surveen Chawla) the town’s visiting dancer/whore, in order to prove her fertility. But her husband Manoj(Mahesh Balraj)who has hidden his infertility by blaming her for it, beats her up on hearing of her pregnancy. Bijli, a free spirit believes Raju her devoted man Friday is in love with her and hopes to leave her thankless profession by opting for a respectable life with him as her husband/lover. But Raju is more intent on cashing in on her saleability in a bigger city. So the three women who bond well together have little option but to seek liberation.

The longing for tenderness comes through quite beautifully in the potent performances and inveigling cinematography by Russell Carpenter and sharp editing by Kevin Trent. While most of the men are beasts here, there’s a token reference point for a good man in Kishan(Sumeet Vyas) a social worker denounced for marrying from outside the state. Kishan is working towards bringing about a change in the regressive and oppressive patriarchal society and also has to pay a heavy price for his involvement in the social transition that is not welcomed by the dominating menfolk. While the film manages to get it’s mechanics right it fails to rouse deep seated emotion from it’s audience. And that’s because the beautifully orchestrated spiel feels detached and a little too alien to be emotively affecting.