Film

Indian Drama ‘Parched’ Takes On Porn and Abuse but Is Best When It’s Funny

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You can see flashes of bawdy comedic brilliance sprinkled throughout Parched, an otherwise grim Indian drama about four women living in a male-dominated village. Too bad writer-director Leena Yadav only infrequently uses innuendo-driven sex talk to break up a monotonous series of confrontations between misogynistic alpha males and their unhappy wives. Yadav inadvertently downplays the independent personalities of demure widow Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), chatty housewife Lajjo (Radhika Apte), and their closest friends by emphasizing their ability to survive constant physical and verbal abuse. Scenes that conclude with Rani’s group either receiving or forgiving their male counterparts’ violent behavior make these sympathetic heroines look like passive victims.

Worse still: Rani, the main protagonist, only asserts herself by either running away from or pridefully lecturing her porn-obsessed son, Gulab (Riddhi Sen), warning him to “open your booze-addled eyes…and look at your wife for once.” Parched‘s weak characterization also distracts from Yadav and her co-creators’ more sensuous contributions, particularly dialogue writer Supratik Sen’s breezy banter, Russell Carpenter’s (Titanic) sunny cinematography, and costume designer Ashima Belapurkar’s vibrant wardrobe.

All of these elements come together in low-stakes conversations about mustache rides, obscene phone calls, and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. Giggly exchanges, like the one about the patriarchal origins of the word “motherfucker” — “Who came up with these cuss words? It must be men. Why not ‘unclefucker’? ‘Dadfucker’? ‘Sonfucker’!” — suggest how much better Parched might have worked if it had kept light and sweet.

Parched

Written and directed by Leena Yadav

Wolfe Video

Opens June 17, AMC Empire 25