Continuing the positive wave of PINK, this week we have PARCHED introducing another group of 3 strong rural women willing to move out of their suppressed lonely lives rediscovering their own identity. But somehow the film doesn’t come up as impressive as it should have been mainly due to many forced clichéd insertions targeting a different set of viewers (discussed in details later).
A rural parallel to the last year’s ANGRY INDIAN GODDESSES (as many might like to call it), PARCHED has a relevant theme, a few worth applauding performances and some fine songs too (using the folk element). However as a fresh new film, it honestly misses any surprise or shock value as such, since it yet again portrays the same ‘seen before’, never-changing state of our remote Indian villages, still brutally exploiting their women in the 21st century.
Having said that, a different kind of shock is rightly there, focusing on the sexual awakening of its key characters along with some extremely revealing sensual scenes involving Radhika in particular, which again seem to be added targeting a particular audience.
Taking you into the oppressed lives of Rani (a widow with a young spoilt son played by Tannishtha), Lajjo (a physically abused childless woman played by Radhika) and Bijli (a bold, aging sex worker played by Surveen), PARCHED is the story of these women living in a distant village around Rajashtan, who at first willfully try to live with the ages old exploiting traditions like a mute social being. But then decide to break all barriers moving into a different phase of life as three freely floating birds in the limitless sky.
For a young viewer who hasn’t seen the impressive eye-opener ‘art wave cinema’ of the 70s and 80s, PARCHED is sure going to be disturbing as well as insightful revealing the questionable state of women living in such rural areas. But for the ones very much familiar with the earlier enlightening gems depicting the harsh truth, PARCHED is just a better film from its director Leena Yadav post the mediocre SHABD and TEEN PATTI representing a notable growth.
It captures the rural feel of the region quite well with an eye-catching cinematography, decent background score and an interesting soundtrack featuring some soothing folk compositions namely Baisa and Mai Ri Mai. The intimacy between the characters is heartwarming at times showcasing their true love and affection for each other. Plus it does offer some worth mentioning scenes at intervals too like the one where the women question - why every abusive word unconditionally targets the females only, and the early sequence focusing on the long beautiful hair of the newly-wed young girl.
But despite these credible merits, PARCHED never turns out to be a great thought-provoking film to be very honest and the end result is not as uplifting and fulfilling as it ought to be.
Giving the performers their deserving due, it gets an amazingly bold support from the cast led by Tannishtha giving a highly authentic and emotional performance as the most mature and caring friend. Radhika plays it really well as the physically abused wife, but (strangely) agrees to such shocking exposure in her intimate scenes (as if they were ‘really demanded by the script’ giving a usual argument). And Surveen sincerely keeps trying hard to act as bold as possible saying a wide range of cuss words with a weird accent. In the supporting cast, Riddhi Sen, Leher Khan and Chandan Anand are just fine, whereas the internet sensation Sumeet Vyaas (sadly) remains wasted.
Coming to the minuses, PARCHED is certainly a film that has been especially made for the international and festival audience instead of the Indian viewers. And here are the reasons for the conclusion along with its drawbacks giving you a clear picture. (Spoilers Ahead)
A. Yes, the intimate scenes in the film have been shot aesthetically with a subtle and realistic approach. But can a director really conceive and shoot such explicit nude scenes for the Indian audience knowing the censorship prevailing in the country……is the question revealing it all?
Moreover where the emotionally charged sequence between Tannishtha and Radhika can still be justified depicting their individual loneliness living a sex-starved life, the Radhika-Adil sequence has been purely added to get some instant eyeballs in the foreign market without any slightest of doubt. Interestingly the way the director conceived it taking the viewer into a mysterious mountain cave occupied by a meditating sadhu, it just reminded me of those typical Ismail Merchant films that specifically had such references exploiting the Indian mysticism.
B. Amongst the entire scenario devised around the women in particular, the film also has a simple, gentleman like character played by Sumeet Vyas, who runs a small handicraft unit employing the village women. The man is supposed to be ‘a revolutionary’ managing the small scale production, but illogically decides to run away from the village just after one cowardly attack by the young boys forgetting his ‘social revolution’. In fact most of the male characters in the film are depicted as weak deserters by the director, may be intentionally.
Further Sumeet also has a wife, who is an educated girl from the North-Eastern region of the country, which again seems to be a forcefully planted character pointing towards another burning national issue, not in any way related to the film’s basic theme or story structure.
C. At one end we are shown the main protagonist (Tannishtha) regularly conversing on a mobile phone having a catchy ringtone. But on the other there comes a sequence where all villagers are excited to have a TV and Dish in the village creating a visible confusion about the time period director is talking about.
D. The names of three reputed foreign technicians can be found in the film’s credits in the Cinematography, Sound and Editing department, who surely were roped in to add some notable weightage to the film in the international and festival arena.
Otherwise just think why we need foreign technicians to shoot a story talking about Indian remote villages, its people, their life and the local lingo or sound. Now had it been a film shot under the water or up above in the sky involving some great ‘never before’ stunts or chase/action sequences then it would have been rightly justified.
But calling such reputed (and obviously expensive) foreign technicians to shoot a film like PARCHED clearly gives you an idea of the target audience it was specifically planned and made for.
E. Lastly and most importantly, just think who would like to keep such a difficult title in English like PARCHED for a HINDI film talking about villagers and village life to be released in India?
To be specific, PARCHED is an apt title for a film (releasing abroad) revolving around three lonely women. But it’s certainly not a good title for a Hindi film to be released in the country itself. Perhaps the makers decided to use the same English title for its Indian release too as its literal translation in Hindi becomes PYAASI (in context of its theme), which would have been differently suggestive for the viewers, along with the leaked nude clippings before its official release.
Summing up, PARCHED can certainly be seen once for its relevant theme, cinematography and the key performers. But the film surely cannot be rated as some great or novel - path breaking attempt made for the Indian audience. In fact even for the westerns its nothing more than ‘an intelligently packaged mixed bag’ looking for an undeserving standing ovation as received by a couple of recent Hindi films in the known festival circuits.
Rating : 2.5 + 0.5 / 5 (with the additional 0.5 for its enjoyable soothing/folk songs heard after a long time.)