Leena Yadav’s latest film Parched is an unflinching look at the dark realities and momentary joys of women’s lives in rural North West India. In the opening of the file, Best friends, widowed Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) and Lajjo (Radhika Apte) take a bus to negotiate a wife for Rani’s son. This family adheres to the traditional ways.
Since Rani’s husband passed when her son Gulab was a toddler she has raised her son on her own, as well as caring for her mother-in-law, as if she were her own mother. Hard as she works, she can’t seem to get ahead. Her son Gulab is as ungrateful as a privileged young man can be in a world that caters to men. Women, even mothers, are chattel, meant to serve and be used. Decisions are made by the village elders, all male, and women have a culture of service.
Yet, there are women who have a modicum of power through making themselves a more saturated, bolder version of what men want. Such is the case with the powerful erotic dancer Bijli (SurveenChawla), who has been best friends with Rani since childhood. Or so they would have us believe.
Fate deals a hand of exquisite cruelty to each of the women in different ways. And how each comes to terms with the harshness of rural life, abuse of husbands and families, and how they each find joy in one another and the bits of beauty that reside in each day is the stuff of which life is made.
Indian cinema tells stories differently. There is music, beauty, pathos, anguish and love that weaves a colorful tapestry. The sere desert backdrop and the sometimes physical resistance to change and progress provides a look at the determination it takes to succeed in such an environment. Sometimes the indomitable plant wends its way through solid rock, and sometimes it uproots itself to find a more fertile environment.
Yadav has made a memorable film that taps into the deepest part of the psyche while providing moments of beauty that inspire the soul. Parched is now available from Wolfe Video.