Leena Yadav is finally making the film she wants to. The Hindi filmmaker’s “Parched” opens June 17 in select theaters in the Bay Area, L.A., and New York through Wolfe Releasing, which will also release it on home entertainment platforms later this summer after the theatrical run.
Starring Tannishtha Chatterjee, Surveen Chawla, and Radhika Apte the film, with a screenplay by Yadav, revolves around three women in a remote village who break free from century-old traditions that have kept them locked in servitude.
“It started because I wanted to make ‘Sex in the Village.’ Tannishtha, who plays Rani in the film, and I had been planning on doing something together,” Yadav said. Chatterjee told Yadav about the women she met while on location shooting “Road Movie” and “Jal.” They were curious about her sex life. “I told her, ‘We think we are progressive, but we have so many layers when we talk about sex.’ ”
After writing her script she sent it out to filmmaker friends across the world who responded with their own stories rather than critiques. “That’s when we realized, ‘Let’s make a really good film that we can take across the world.’ ”
But finding funding was close to impossible, she said. “I have no heroes, Tannishtha is not well known, not in India. Right now Radhika is coming up.”
So her husband, cinematographer Aseem Bajaj, said he would be the producer and help get her film made. “And he made the most difficult promise,” she said.
Before “Parched,” Yadav had written and directed 2005’s “Shabd” and 2010’s “Teen Patti” and directed a telepic. But with Bollywood bold-faced name Ajay Devgn offering seed money to the project they were able to find two investors who helped put up some money, while the couple invested everything they had.
The next challenge was to find a village for the location shoot. This turned out to be pretty difficult as village leaders didn’t want the filmmakers there. Yadav said she was told, “Our women will get corrupt looking at you.” Finally they found a village in Rajasthan that was deserted for all but two months of the year. About 60% of the huts were dilapidated, but the production fixed them up so the shoots could proceed.
Although Yadav’s husband is a d.p., they decided to hire Russell Carpenter (“Titanic,” “Ant-Man”) as cinematographer since Bajaj had to work full time as a producer.
“Foreigners come and click much more interesting photos of India,” Yadav said. “I told Russell, ‘I want to celebrate the beauty of these women. I’m not making a dark, depressing film.’ ”
The shoot, which began in January 2014, took a while as they had to stop and start, depending on funding. But Yadav is pleased with the end result. “Parched” played at the Toronto festival last fall and has been on the film festival circuit since. It will open the London Indian Film Festival in October.
Seville Intl. has sold the film in several territories including France, where it sold more than 120,00 tickets, Benelux, Mexico, Russia, and Colombia. The film has not yet opened in India, but she is in talks with distributors and hopes something will work out so it can open in July or August.
“Once in a lifetime I had to do something like this, but it’s very difficult,” Yadav said. “I can only do this again after five or 10 years.”