Parched tells the story of a group of Indian women in a rural desert community dealing with a regressive, sexually oppressed society. Marriages are arranged, men can sleep around but women must remain faithful and subservient, marital abuse is routine.
I typically don’t enjoy movies like this, with weighty didactic themes and lots of unjust suffering. But, despite not being in the target audience, I still found a lot of value in Parched, one of the only Indian movies I’ve ever seen.
I see the movie’s strengths falling mostly in two buckets. The first is the interpersonal dynamics between the women. The nuanced relationships between the four leads, all of different life and societal statuses, get a lot of texture: moments of beautiful intimacy but also vengeful resentment and plenty of shades in between.
The second area of strength for the movie is its look. Simply, the cinematography is outstanding in Parched. Russell Carpenter (the cinematographer for Titanic and many other US hits) captures the movie’s fictional town in beautiful colors and timbres that highlight every emotional journey in the story: garish nightlife neons; claustrophobic hut interiors; exhausting browns of the desert; saturated, festive garments; stately grays of caves and monuments. It’s a luscious film to take in.
Beyond those two strengths, the movie is nothing too special, though never going south of watchable. Leena Yadav’s direction is fine. The screenplay is often quite clunky and broad, with more shallow characters than deep ones. And the ending is implausibly upbeat, .
But it’s overall a compelling watch, and one I’d recommend for most people — even those as disconnected from its realities as I am.
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.