Kochi Feb 10: The Pavilion at Cabral Yard in Fort Kochi echoed with sustained applause as Leena Yadav’s film Parched received a standing ovation from the capacity audience.
“I haven’t seen a movie that has so moved me in recent times,” said one member of the audience, voicing a commonly held sentiment after the screening – held as part of the ‘Artists’ Cinema’ programme of the Kochi Biennale Foundation.
It was followed by an interactive session with Yadav, who said Parched was born out of a conversation she had with actress Tannishtha Chatterjee.
“She shared her experiences and conversations with the women of some Kutch villages with me and I said, “Let’s make a movie on sex in the village’! But then as the film started taking shape, it developed some more serious undertones. I travelled to many villages and spoke to a lot of women. Parched took shape on the basis of these conversations and observations,” Yadav said.
The film was screened as part of a four-day specially curated film package titled ‘Indian Cinema: A Female Narrative’ by acclaimed film editor Bina Paul.
Responding to a question by Paul on the process of script writing, Yadav said: “I was totally overwhelmed by the fearlessness of the women in the villages, which prompted me to start developing the script. I practice a special process that involves my actors and asks them to build memories irrespective of whether they were to be included in the movie or not. Moreover, when we planned to start the shoot, we were refused at more than 30 villages. The villagers told us that their women would be corrupted by looking at us.”
Yadav said these incidents prompted her to rewrite one of the film’s major characters. “These men were not of the older generation, but were young and educated. The general perception is that education can solve the problem. However, it is not uprooting the conditioning.”
Parched follows the lives of three women and a young girl, whose destinies are effectively pre-determined. Under the scrutiny of the men and the vigilance of the patriarchal board of elders who make decisions about their lives and their futures, the women are obliged to accept the rules, to respect the norms and follow the traditions of the small village where they were born, where they live and where they will probably die.
Each carries the weight of her own story. The widow, the infertile bride, the prostitute and the young girl fated to marry to someone she doesn’t love are all characters from classic literature.
Speaking about the film package, Paul said that the five selected works, which includes two documentaries, offer a glimpse to the contemporary female narratives in Indian Cinema.
“Recently, I read a magazine article saying that in Hollywood, only four per cent of professionals behind the camera are women, which is very unlikely given our expectations from a system like Hollywood. I included these movies not only because they were made by women, but more importantly because they struck important chords in India,” Paul said.
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