Friday, August 5, 2016

VOD/DVDebut: Leena Yadav's PARCHED tracks women's struggle for freedom in today's India

A soap opera that offers just about everything a woman (along with certain men) could want in a juicy, enjoyable melodrama -- from a nasty, vicious husband who abuses his barren wife to a zipless fuck with a hot, horny and super-caring sex partner, and even a little lesbian-leaning massage for good measure -- PARCHED is a movie with a lot on its mind and a nearly two-hour time span to work out all of its various plot lines. These involve a widow raising a problemed son, that son's new-and-not-so-willing bride, the widow's best friend who works as a stripper-and-paid-sex-partner for the town's horny husbands, and -- oh, yes -- that aforementioned abused wife.

Filmmaker Leena Yadav, shown at right, manages to juggle all these plot lines quite well, so that we easily follow their machinations, together with all the ups and downs of our quartet who are doing their best to bring India and its women into some kind of state of modernity. It ain't easy, given the patriarchy that has ruled this country (despite the blip that was Indira Gandhi) for so long. As writer, producer and director of the film, Ms Yadav sees to it that all these stories and characters get served -- eventually with their just desserts. And while the movie allows too much coincidence for us to take it all that seriously as drama, it also turns its main character, the mother known as Rani (Tanishtha Chaterjee, below), into a full-bodied warts-and-all woman.

In movies such as this one, the men are usually pictured as less than sterling. And so it is here, with the exception of the fellow who has brought his "foreign" wife to town and is helping the women start and run their own little weaving/textiles/tchotchke business. The remainder of the guys -- with the exception of that "sex therapist" who is rather like a deus ex machina with penis -- are either venal and nasty or, as in the case of the fellow (below) who pines for that stripper (and also works for her boss), simply stupid.

Especially nasty is the abusive husband, below, who manages to lambast his poor wife at every turn, no matter what. (His comeuppance proves particularly awful and more than deserved.)

But it is the women who count most, and they are brought of fine life by the quartet of actresses who play the roles. The stripper/sex worker (Suveen Chawla, two photos above) is gorgeous and feisty. In real life, however her attitude would probably have gotten her a number of good beatings by now. Their lack is part of the melodramatic fun here.

As the abused wife, Radhika Apte, above, is properly submissive, slow and sweet, and her quiet growth into a stronger woman is one of the more real aspects of the movie.

The young bride of Rani's shithead son is the female we learn least about, but, as played by Lehar Khan, above, she is innocence and sweetness personified. And since the character has most of her life still in front of her, we can simply be happy at the prospect of her eventual freedom. How and why this happens is among the movie's more moving moments.

Visually, Parched is a knockout, featuring some great locations and excellent cinematography (by Russell Carpenter); the consciousness-raising among the women proves intelligent and enjoyable; and overall the film is a perfectly good example of soap-opera, Indian style -- feminist and a lot of fun.

From Wolfe Releasing/Wolfe Video, after a limited theatrical run, the movie hits both DVD and VOD this coming Tuesday, August 9 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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