Home OtherFilm New on Netflix: Leena Yadav’s Parched

New on Netflix: Leena Yadav’s Parched

written by rick August 13, 2016
New on Netflix: Leena Yadav’s Parched

Blending elements of Bollywood musicals, melodrama, and moments of jarring realism, Leena Yadav’s deeply feminist Parched explores the struggles and solidarity of four women in a rural Indian village. It’s a world of brightly colored joy and patriarchal despair in equal measure, and Yadav draws excellent performances from her three primary characters.

That tonal mixture makes for a strange set of contrasts at times — bouncing from light comic scenes to dance numbers to brief but horrifying moments of violence and sexual assault — but Parched is often gripping. It’s also beautifully shot by Russell Carpenter (of Titanic, Ant-Man, and the decidedly less feminist Monster-In-Law).

parched

Parched focuses on three women with very different sets of problems, all rooted in patriarchy and smothering cultural norms. Lajjo (Radhika Apte) is a seamstress and wife to a drunken brute who holds their childlessness against her. Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is a widow marrying off her entitled and increasingly nasty 17-year-old son Gulab to the even younger Janaki (Lehar Khan). And Bijli (Surveen Chawla) is a dancer/sex worker both disdained for lasciviousness (including by the men who cheer her on stage and hire her services) and admired for her relative freedom by her friends and the wider community.

Yadav and co-screenwriter Supratik Sen create astute and individual psychologies for the three women, and place them in a narrative that allows wider complexities to take hold. Parched can get a bit didactic or heavy-handed — the men are, by and large, cartoonish in their villainy — but this is offset by how well the character scenes work.

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The frequent grimness of its depiction is also made much more palatable by a counter-intuitively light touch, which finds humor, brightness, and beauty amid desperate circumstances.

The English-language title Parched implies that desperation, but, by the time our unlikely heroines are Thelma-and-Louising their way to the excitement and trepidation of new lives, it’s clear that the connections fostered between them will be their sources of relief.

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