Thappad Movie Review: Taapsee Pannu starrer ‘Thappad’ Mirrors The Patriarchal Norms Associated With Marriages In Our Society
Taapsee Pannu starrer 'Thappad' is an impactful social drama that beautifully answers the tag line of the film, 'bas itni si baat hai?' in a way, that gives a silent slap to the deep-rooted patriarchy in our society. This film is not about domestic violence, but it's certainly about physical abuse and mirrors how more often than not, we tend to act blind towards 'a hit' or 'a slap', as we are conditioned to not consider it as physical abuse, if done once, in the 'heat of the moment.' It pains me to say that Anubhav Sinha has delivered yet another slice of life story, because yes, this story is a reality for many women across different age groups and strata in our society.
Sinha has beautifully portrayed how we tend to normalize 'a slap', which indeed is a form of physical abuse and most importantly an abuse to woman’s dignity and self respect. The film reasserts that even if it is ‘just one slap’, a man should not get away with it so easily in a normal-regular set up of a marriage.
Right at the beginning, the film establishes that it will share stories of multiple characters’ plight, which have all stemmed out of how 'only women' are obligated to 'adjust', 'understand', 'compromise' and 'sacrifice' to make their marriage 'successful' and 'work'. Set in New Delhi, the film tells the story of an upper-middle class household, where Taapsee Pannu plays a willfully submissive housewife Amrita, who in spite of being a trained Kathak dancer, has chosen to let go off her dreams to support the dreams and aspirations of her husband Vikram, played by Pavail Gulati. She finds her happiness in organizing his life, from handling the printer issues to keeping his files in order. In spite of taking complete care of her mother-in-law and making the lemongrass tea, sugar-free breakfast everyday in the morning, Amrita still looks down upon her own talent of building a home by saying “mujhe acche parathe banane nahi aate". She is even ready to ignore her ankle pain, as long as Vikram is happy and comfortable.
Her happy and content marital bliss comes crashes down, when, owing to Vikram's office politics, he vents out his frustration on his wife by slapping her, in the heat of the moment, at a house party in public. Well this slap certainly makes her see all those silent slaps, that she had been ignoring for long. Will Amrita choose to let go off her self-respect that got tattered in public for the sake of love to save her marriage, by surrendering to the set conventional notions of the society of 'how in good families girls are taught to keep a family together and make marriages work irrespective of anything'? or will she stand up for herself as she realizes and utters 'Agar rishte jod ke rakhne padhey to matlab wo already tutey huey hi hai'? This film is just not about 'a slap' or physical abuse, it's about all such patriarchal norms that are unknowingly inculcated in us as a child, by our families and very own parents irrespective of sexes. Where no matter how privileged a family one hails from, girls are constantly made to think, 'log kya kahenge' before taking every decision.
Taapsee Pannu continues her streak of delivering stories that ignite a 'thought' that is needed to be made by one and all. She has given a phenomenal performance as Amrita that many Indian wives will resonate with. Her powerful performance will make many people introspect their own marriages and relationships that might otherwise look happy and content through the societal lenses. Taapsee's silence in the film is more powerful than her dialogues and that will make you feel her dilemma and pain and that's commendable of her as an actor.
Pavail Gulati has delivered a debut performance that will steal a lot of limelight. He has effortlessly stepped into the flawed character of Vikram, who is such a self-conceited man, that the morning after slapping his wife in public, all that bothers him, is not what people will think of him after the humiliating incident but not achieving the position that he wanted to acquire. His character bothers you all through the film for being unapologetic about his actions and for being insensitive till the last scene where his dialogues might leave you teary-eyed. He has given a strong performance despite Taapsee stealing the show. The needed chemistry between the two actors has certainly impacted the narrative.
The film has a terrific ensemble cast, which has given good support to the protagonists. Ratna Pathak Shah's dialogue 'Miya Biwi me itna ladai jhagda hota hai' and expecting that Amrita will understand the unbreakable bond that one signs in a marriage, will remind you of most middle class Indian moms.
While Kumud Mishra as Amrita's father always has her back. Another commendable performance is made by the actress who plays the maid in the film and it’s unforgettable. Dia Mirza and Ram Kapoor have small parts to play in the film, their characters in spite of having a lot potential didn't have much to contribute in the film.
Director Anubhav Sinha after Mulk and Article 15 has added one more feather to his cap with Thappad. The strength of this social drama lies in its power of relatability with the pan India audience, where Sinha has delivered a simple story impactfully while maintaining its simplicity. The 2 hours 22 minutes screenplay could have been trimmed a little. The cinematography has been done so beautifully that it will make you gaze at Amrita's internal pain and struggle without much effort. There are no forced songs in the film other than the title song which fits perfectly in the narrative. The USP of the film is its story and dialogues. Dialogues like "Thoda bardasht karna seekhna chahiye autaron ko", "When you’re truly in love, thodi bahut maar peet is expression of love only", "Shaadi mein yeh sab chalta hai" "move on" etc could have easily gone wrong but the writers have used them at the right places for maximum impact.
For me the film had two climaxes, one is Amrita's scene with her much loved mother-in-law, played by Tanvi Azmi, which shows how the problem lies in the patriarchal upbringing of kids irrespective of sexes and strata. The other is the last scene between Amrita and Vikram outside the divorce office, like I already mentioned before.
The film will leave you with a lingering effect that will trigger several thoughts and questions about what if the situation was this or that, filled with several ifs and buts. The film gave me an experience of a conversation that the filmmaker wanted to make with the audience all through the screen time. Well this film will give rise to several conversations that are needed to be made to make us retrospect our own relationships and marriages. I will give this film four out of five stars and will suggest one and all to watch Thappad, as it's a story that was needed to be said, but most importantly it is needed to be heard.