Just after the first world premiere of Ajay Devgn's production Parched was held in Toronto, the film's agent asked director Leena Yadav to come on stage, minus the woman actors in the movie, Radhika Apte, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Surveen Chawla, and Lehar Khan.
"Don’t tell them to come on stage", Yadav was instructed. She was left wondering why this request was made, especially since the entire cast was flown down from India to be part of the big day. The agent replied, "Because everybody will ask them questions in English."
“This was such a huge compliment,” said the Parched team in unison, as they burst out laughing. Giggling with them was Kajol, who has gone all out to support her husband with this film. Parched follows the journey of the liberation of four women from a small, drought-affected rural Indian village in Gujarat.
“After watching the film, I couldn't remember the names of the actresses, as I was so engrossed into their portrayal. I came out only with the characters in my head: Bijli, Lajjo, Rani and Janaki. I think that's the best compliment for any actor. Honestly I didn't expect that I would love the film so much. I read the script so I knew what it is about," says Kajol.
Parched has been a festival favourite since last year, with thunderous response at 24 International Film Festivals across continents. It gears up for a release this Friday, 23 September.
Radhika Apte, who plays one of the women in the film, looks back at her experience. "What came with the film is the abandonment of fear and the knowledge of choice. To jump at what you believe is true is my take-away from Parched. The film questions lot of things that we take for granted. It explores relationships between women,” says Radhika, who was particularly kicked about working with whole lot of female crew for two months.
For Tannishtha, Parched was a simple choice as Yadav and the actress have been wanting to work together for a long time. "One day we were brainstroming and I was telling her a story about the women I had encountered in Kutch. Leena got inspired and we ended up travelling together to Kutch. She then wrote the script and within one year we made the film," says Tannishtha.
Surveen Chawla, who plays Bijlee, added, "It was a phenomenal role for me and it came to me at the most appropriate time of my life. I wanted to evolve as a woman. For the first time I bonded with so many women. We may not be the best of friends but it's very important to bond as women, to stand up for women, and our whole process of filming has brought us so much closer. You begin to believe that not every woman is out to pull you down. It was a revolutionary experience for me."
While the film takes up the topic of women breaking free from the shackles of century-old traditions in a bold and brazen manner, Kajol tackles the question on feminism in a light-hearted manner. Kajol says with a laugh, “If there is feminism there should be masculinism."
She continues, albeit on a serious note, "There may be several issues of women that bother me, but I believe that we are all equal; that is my idea of feminism. As long as we have strong, honest, good people, we are sorted. That is where human race is lacking."
"Parched shows us that we have a long way to go as good human beings. The film doesn't refer to just one section of society. Women’s issues are everywhere. There is rape and child molestation taking place in every section of society.”
Commenting on the leaked nude video, and Adil Hussain-Radhika Apte's love-making scene, Kajol strongly believes that the film's message and its purpose will not get lost. “For whatever reason you go and see the film, really for whatever the reason it maybe, you will definitely not come out remembering just one thing or one scene. You will come out thinking that women are cool, women are powerful and that women have power over their own lives,” says the actress.
Kajol further adds, “After watching Parched, you will come out thinking that you have a choice and it just could be happiness without guilt. That is a fantastic message, it is a message of hope. The choice is in your hands unlike most of the situations that you see in life. You do know what to do, it may be difficult and time consuming but the choice is definitely in your hands.”
Incidentally, Kajol says that she drew inspiration from the film in many ways. “The film inspires you to stand up for women. It inspires you to make better friends. It inspires you to look at women as awesome specimen of the gender and it definitely inspires you to go out and chill and call up all your girl friends and say, 'Listen girls, let’s go out, let’s party, let’s spend some time with each other.'”
However, she refused to comment on the ongoing controversy between Ajay's Shivaay and Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.
Kajol merely says, "Shivaay is going to be amazing. The title track is fantastic. It is written like a poem and at the same time it is so today, so contemporary and I absolutely love the trailer of Shivaay."