With the Bagri Foundation London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) marking it�۪s 7th year in 2016, the line-up seems to get better and better each year. Known for showing a wide range of films from different parts of the world, with unconventional subjects, this year the festival opened with director Leena Yadav�۪s ��Parched�۪ which addresses the issues of how society deems women as sex objects, and their only destiny in life is to be in the service of men. Co-produced by Ajay Devgn, Aseem Bajaj, Gulab Singh and Rohan Jagdale, the film seems to have promising prospects.
Having received much applause from other international festivals for expressing the brutal realness of the subject, one would think it would only be apt for LIFF to choose such a project to open their festival. However, have they tried too hard too soon? Are the London audiences ready to face a raw reality of what they may also have been exposed to, despite being in a cosmopolitan city? Or has Yadav overstepped a mark with society where controversy isn�۪t too far away?
Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee) and Lajjo (Radhika Apte) are on their way to meet Rani�۪s son Gulab�۪s (Riddhi Sen) new bride Janaki (Lehar Khan). At the tender age of 15, Janaki seems to be the perfect match for Rani�۪s son, with an innocent face and luscious long locks the deal is sealed after Janaki�۪s father asks for a raise in the dowry. Gulab on the other hand, is seen as a typical teenage boy, discovering his sexuality, visiting whore houses, inducing alcohol and following what seems as the norm for the men of the village. Despite not being happy with his mother�۪s decision, he marries Janaki only to find she�۪s nothing like his mother said. Setting him on a rampage of even more trouble. Lajjo, dreams of becoming a mother, however with an alcoholic husband who, physically and emotionally abuses her, accusing her of being barren, she puts up with everything she has for the joys of being there for Rani. Bijli (Surveen Chawla) is the village dancer and prostitute, who faces the wrath of men on a daily basis. However, her close bond with Rani and Lajjo gives all three women a chance to escape their realities for a while where through each other they discover their lives could be different from the ones they horrifically live.
Yadav has told a very heartfelt, hard-hitting and eye-opening story, which has been presented at a most crucial time, where the equality for women is becoming a more focused subject. The director takes her audience on an emotional journey where they find themselves laughing, crying and mesmerised all through one scene. If nothing else, Yadav has been extremely honest in her film making, and it�۪s fair to say that she has definitely made a film that will have her audiences constantly think about. ��
Chatterjee, Apte and Chawla�۪s performances are nothing short of outstanding. Their characters and their chemistry are very easily connectable, where they are able to own the screen individually however have audiences wanting more of their togetherness. Despite being only her second film, Khan as the innocent Janaki was the perfect addition as the fourth woman of the film. Her on-screen presence is an instant hit where one can�۪t help but have an intense feel for her and what she�۪s going through, as she makes one realise her actions may not be so different to theirs if they were put in the same situation. Playing the role of the men for this film, wouldn’t have been an easy task either, however Sen�۪s intensity as Gulab makes it look effortless, and the audiences almost instantly dislike his character. However it�۪s also understood that here is a boy who is forced into early adulthood, not knowing any better than what he is exposed to by the other men in the village. It has to go without saying a special mention must be given towards Sumeet Vyas who plays Kishan, the only man in the village who treats the women in a much more respectable way, and Adil Hussain who plays the mysterious voice on the other end of Rani�۪s phone who claims to be her Shah Rukh Khan, who also gives way for her to escape her own reality.
��Parched�۪ is one film that once watched will stay in the audience’s minds forever. It�۪s not one to remain on screen either. Yadav has managed to tell the story of all the different women from around the world, who are faced with the same realities of society. What�۪s more, Yadav�۪s sense of realness adds to the intensity of the film, breaking barriers of what many hold back in doing. It is a controversial subject that will have many questions to answer, however it�۪s all the more reason for such a subject to be addressed. This is not a film that bashes men and claims women are better. Instead it represents women as strong individuals who have as much to bring towards society as men without being seen as objects. It works as a lesson for those to lead lives that they are happy with and to have courage and strength. A wonderfully told story that holds some hard truths. ����
BizAsia Showbiz Rating: 4.5/5