November 29, 2020

Thappad Movie Review: An impactful social drama that questions the unsaid rules of marriage


STORY: Amrita’s (Taapsee Pannu) world comes crumbling down when her fiercely ambitious husband, Vikram (Pavail Gulati), lands a mighty slap across the face at a party that was supposed to celebrate his success in the corporate world. Will Amrita, whose life so far has revolved around Vikram’s needs, wants and dreams, stand up and speak up against this humiliation in public? Or will she brush it off as a one-off incident, forgive him and move on? Or will this shake up her own beliefs about life and marriage?

REVIEW: Hailing from a loving and supportive family in Delhi, and trained in Indian classical dance, Amrita’s life could have taken a different course but she harboured the dream of being the best housewife ever, even if that meant giving up on her passion for dance. Vikram is a go-getter, and has his mind and heart are set on his goal and he will do everything in his capacity to achieve it. But, in a moment he realises that his big dreams are about to get shattered, blame it on office politics. Vikram does the unthinkable — his pent-up frustration finds an outlet in his committed wife, in the form of a thunderous slap that’s witnessed by loved ones from both the sides. And, this sparks the beginning of an ugly, emotional battle which goes beyond domestic violence. While the uncalled for incident makes Amrita delve upon and question her life choices and their marriage, Vikram continues to live in denial and wonders how ‘just one slap’ is turning out to be a life-changing moment.

Anubhav Sinha’s 2 hours and 21 minutes-long social drama, which is made for a society that rarely talks about the emotional and psychological effects of domestic violence, is set to spark debates and discussions on various ground. One stress-fuelled slap at a party takes the form of a full-blown conversation pertaining to the unsaid rules of a marriage (where women are constantly reminded ki ghar zyada zaruri hain and that their actions will always be detertaimmend by log kya kehenge) and if it is acceptable for a husband to get away with what he considers one ‘casual thappad’ because he was fuming with anger.

The film takes its own sweet time in expressing the dynamics of Amrita-Vikram’s arranged marriage and how the two of them manage to blend in well with their financially-imbalanced, yet likeable, families. Sure, Vikram loves his wife, but he has made a monster out of his career goals, which the better half supports and harbours with all her heart. Even before the conflict arises, you can see an uber happy Taapsee making plans of a ‘big blue door’ at their future London apartment. Naturally, when the slap happens, her world turns over and even both sides of the families are divided on what is right, what is wrong and how much is too much, and the protocols of marriage in our Indian setting. Irrespective of various views thrown at her, Amrita is fiesty and resolves to channel the inner fighter in her and stands up for what she truly believes in — that even one slap is outrageous and not okay.

‘Thappad’ is not just a film aimlessly ranting about borderline domestic violence; it brings to light the years of conditioning that a woman is subjected to by her own family and society that she lives in. Other than the aforementioned couple, there are other women in focus, too — one who is bearing the brunt of a family’s name and legacy, one hung up on the idea that marriage is the ultimate destination, one coming from the poorer section of the society who is compelled to believe that getting thrashed by the husband is the norm, and one who has loved and lost a fine husband and is now struggling to find a replacement who outdoes the former. Sinha manages to intertwine all these stories and juxtaposition them with one another at right junctions, without being too in-your-face about it. The subtly works beautifully even as the stark contrast in their lives unfold.

Taapsee, as the submissive wife, who suddenly undergoes an ocean of change within her, is a firecracker of a performer in this drama. In one scene, where she bids goodbye to a crucial character, Taapsee delivers a speech that is cathartic to its very core. Her portrayal is restrained but at the same time in every scene she exposes a gamut of emotions — pain, disgust, regret and rage — without saying too much. If that is not a stupendous performance, we don’t know what is. Pavail Gulati, as the determined corporate-slave with very intense life goals, pulls off a brilliant performance. You will want to hate him for his flaws, but his character is no less complex than the rest of them. Kumud Mishra, stands out as Amrita’s father — an ardent supporter of his daughter — and at most times he is the only one who sticks up for her. Mishra’s character reinstates why for a lot of daughters their father is their hero. Tanvi Azmi and Ratna Pathak Shah, as Amrita’s mother-in-law and mother respectively, play their roles to a T — that of being the torchbearers of matriarchal mentality and trying to instill the same in the women of the house. However, Maya Sarao, who plays the high-profile lawyer Nethra Jaisingh, is the weakest link in the film. Not that she is bad, but others are so good that she gets overshadowed by some real power-packed performances.

The music of the film is beautifully melancholic in tone and blends in with the narrative. It is safe to say that Anubhav Sinha has rendered his career’s best in this strong-worded social drama. He deserves an applause for the depth-handling of the various characters in the film, their greys, complexities, dilemmas without ever getting too loud, overbearing or trying too hard to make a statement. Yet, the film drives home a solid point and leaves you with enough to ponder upon. The fine and nuanced writing deserves a special mention as that is what takes the film notches higher.

To sum it up, ‘Thappad’ is a silent slap on our society’s age-old belief that — shaadi mein sab kuch chalta hain. But honestly, should it be that way? And that is what we need to start talking about… now!



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