'Parched' - Movie Review
The whore is strangely (albeit, rightly) the symbol of freedom in 'Parched'. Despite flaws in the story-telling, it's impossible not to be drawn to the three ladies — married, single, and a whore — who form an unlikely but fun trio dealing with sex, lies, and life itself
Radhika Apte and Adil Hussain in a still from 'Parched'
Director: Leena Yadav
Cast: Surveen Chawla, Radhika Apte, Tannishtha Chatterjee
The whore is strangely (albeit, rightly) the symbol of freedom in this rural film. To start with, the choice of who she wants to sleep with rests with her. And here I'm referring to the particular character in this pic. Unlike the rest of the women in the hamlet. She has greater ownership over her own body. She is also slightly above judgment. Or at least couldn't care less. How does one even shame the supposedly shameless?
The men in fact have serious disrespect for her. Which partly emanates from their own fears and insecurities—the fact that she couldn't give a shit about them, one. She sees them pay money, and humiliate themselves sitting, literally and figuratively, naked before her. She is used to men in perhaps their most vulnerable state. This is also probably why a society dominated by men detests the prostitute the most.
Surveen Chawla plays this sex worker's role in this film—rather stunningly may I add — even if her character seems slightly out of place in the social context. One could even argue that there isn't much of a social backdrop to this film at all. For timeline, we're in a village where everyone holds a cellphone in their hands, at the same time they appear excited about the advent of television in the kasbah. Geographically, the place seems like Rajasthan, but the language (the expletive 'g**ndi', for instance) decidedly belongs to Gujarat.
The locales, shot lovingly — majestic caves, salt marshes, barren lands, devoid of much population — is surreal enough to belong to nowhere in particular. For international film festival audiences, where this movie has been widely feted, the picture before us, is of India, of the villages. Yes, that they'll all understand.
And who's the film about? Well, to be honest, about far too many women, and issues, being dealt with simultaneously. This is part of the reason the film loses focus every so often. Of the other two women in this movie, played absolutely brilliantly by both the actors, one (Tanishtha Chatterjee) is 32 years old, with a 17-year-old totally nalayak (useless) son. No man has touched her for 15 years. The other one (Radhika Apte) has a man (her husband) touch her all right, every night in fact, but mainly to beat her black and blue.
Genre-wise, 'Fem-jep', or female in jeopardy, is how you'd describe this film as a cliché. But there is still much joy in the air as the three ladies — married, single, and a whore — form an unlikely but fun trio dealing with sex, lies, and life itself. Despite obvious flaws in the story-telling, it's downright impossible not to be drawn to these characters.
If you were to draw a parallel, this would perhaps be the rural equivalent of Pan Nalin's upper-class, super-urbane 'Angry Indian Goddesses', a terrific ensemble pic, from last year. Of course we've been seeing very entertaining and explosive feminist films lately ('Pink' is an even more recent example). They only reflect an irreversible revolution on the Indian streets, homes, and workplaces. A fine sign of our times, I'd say, and if the arrow also leads to theatres, yes, it's worth going, and supporting, for sure.
Watch the trailer of 'Parched'
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