Are The Rural Indian Women ‘Parched’? – Movie Review

If Pink portrayed the effect of our patriarchal society on modern, well-educated women; Parched describes the condition of  rural women who aren’t very bold and/or educated.

Earlier women faced problems like child marriage, sati pratha, restriction to widow remarriage, widow’s exploitation, devadasi system, etc. However, almost all these age old traditional problems disappeared gradually from the society. But we are now seeing a rise in other issues. Women are still facing many problems even after being self-confident, individualistic, self-respecting, talented, and efficient. Some even happen to be more capable than men. They still face problems daily even after being granted equal rights and opportunities as men by the Constitution of India.

They face violence almost every day. There is an increase in crime rate against women. A woman gets kidnapped every 44 minutes. A rape happens every 47 minutes. There are 17 cases of dowry death every day. Women still face violence within the family. Women go through  harassment and death due to dowry demand. They are a victim of marital rape, wife-battering, sexual abuse, deprivation of healthy food, female genital mutilation and humiliation. They are not safe even outside the family. There is a constant fear of kidnapping, rape, murder, acid attack and groping.

Female education percentage is low in India,  especially in the rural areas for they are discouraged for higher education.

Leena Yadav’s Parched is a sad yet inspiring observation of the misogyny of this patriarchal society. It clearly and bluntly shows the feudal mindsets that objectify women for reproduction and pleasure. It shows how the stereotype of ‘being used and then discarded’ is built-in in the women.

The story revolves around three women – Rani ( Tannishtha Chatterjee), Lajjo (Radhika Apte) and Bijli (Surveen Chawla). The movie is a blend of their stories.

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Rani is a widow who is all set to get her son, Gulab (Riddhi Sen) married. She ‘buys’ him a bride, Janaki (Leher Khan) who is just 14 and doesn’t really want to get married.  On the day of the wedding, she discovers that the girl has her hair chopped. The cloud of her expectations desires and dreams bursts as the fellow villagers make fun of her. When Gulab discovers this, he starts hating her. This troubles her already disturbed life.

Lajjo is a barren woman who is stuck in an abusive marriage. Her husband beats her brutally almost everyday just because she wasn’t able to give him a child. But none of this ever affects her high spirits and her fun-loving attitude. She is sweetly outspoken and never regrets what she says. Later in the story, we get to know that it’s her husband who is barren. For Lajjo, after spending a night with one of Bijli’s clients, gets pregnant. Her husband is sure that the child isn’t his.

Bijli is a dancer in the village’s local dance company. She is also a part-time sex worker. When her career is at peak, she faces competition in a young girl. She encounters the realms of sexual nuances every single day and yet she stands tall and proud.

Like most of the movies these days, the trailer of Parched was quite misleading. I was expecting some women empowerment based hard hitting storyline. Instead all I got was an Indian version of Sex and the City! Or shall I say Sex and the Village since that’s how the entire movie unfolds.

Also, the movie’s execution leaves you uneasy. No matter if it’s a fully grown woman like Lajjo being beaten up by her husband. Or the underage bride who faces the brutality of her so-called husband. The portrayal of violence is harsh. But again, that’s reality in our country.

The erotic scenes are a bit superficially attractive. They do lighten the grimness of the plot but the overall effect is more exotic than rural. That results into the plot losing its grey and real feel.

Parched acclaimed applause abroad, but in India it won’t surprise the audience much. We are pretty much familiar about the harsh environment rural women live in. That might be the reason the movie may not get through to the Indian audience. There is nothing new that the movie offers. The performances by all the actors are impeccable and the cinematography is precisely done. In conclusion, I will say that if you enjoy watching art films, surely go for this one.

Our Verdict: 2.5/5

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