Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Parched: Gujarati Women and the Men Who Abuse Them
men of this provincial Gujarati village all seem to have the own unique style
for being boorish, misogynist, freeloading sexual predators. Each is as
different as a snowflake, but they make the women around them just as
miserable. Worst of all, the put upon women are supposed to take it and be
grateful. However, four women start to question tradition in Leena Yadav’s Parched (trailer here), which
opens today in New York.
rapey husband was no door prize, but when he keeled over, literally dead drunk,
he left her as the sole provider for their entitled son Gulab and his wizened
old mother. For the record, she was sixteen years old at the time, having
survived three years of wedded bliss. Her best friend is the sweetly optimistic
Lajjo, who is routinely beaten by her husband for being infertile, even though
we immediately suspect he is the one shooting blanks. Basically, the only
alternative to being an abused house wife is to be a prostitute, like Bijli,
who befriended Rani and Lajjo through an unlikely chain of events. That is how
things have always been in the village and the chauvinist elders intend to keep
it that way.
has always followed the rules, but she starts to doubt when she buys her
gangster-wannabe son a wife. It is called a dowry, but it’s the same as purchasing
chattel. When the union starts on a sour note, she immediately lashes out at
the innocent Janaki, but she eventually realizes she is just continuing the
cycle of abuse. Meanwhile, Gulab the red light district-patronizing defender of
traditional values and his running mates decide to take out their frustrations
on Kishan, the village’s sole progressive, who offers the local women
empowering work as a shirt manufacturer.
is impossible not to be profoundly moved and deeply angered by Parched, but Yadav hardly plays fair.
She uses every manipulative trick in the book, while completely eschewing
subtlety. At times the film feels like a frontal assault. There are only so
many times you can watch a cowering woman endure a potentially crippling
assault without getting sick to your psyche. However, you have to admire the
in-your-face honesty, which makes the tacked-on happy ending feel so weird,
sort of like if Thelma and Louise had safely driven off into the sunset in a clown
Rani, Tannishtha Chatterjee basically rips the viewer’s heart out and stomps on
it. Yet she looks downright aloof and detached compared Radhika Apte as the
acutely naïve and vulnerable Lajjo. Arguably, Surveen Chawla gives the fullest
performance as the sultry but self-defeating Bijli. Unfortunately, Lehar Khan
spends too much time buried under veils and shunted into a corner to make much
of an impression as Janaki, but Riddhi Sen is thoroughly detestable, yet still
sadly believable, as the monstrous little Gulab.
is definitely pushing hot buttons and using agit-prop theater techniques, but
the film mostly still works on a basic dramatic level. In this case, her heart
also happens to be in the right place. She does make us care about these characters’
fates—and she makes us suffer it. Recommended for those in the mood for a blood
pressure-rising social issue Parallel Cinema, Parched opens today (6/17) in New York, at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Gujarati Cinema