Thappad

Thappad is a story about a woman called Amrita whose life seems perfect. She seemed to have everything a regular married woman could have hoped for: a loving husband, caring parents-in-law, and a decent lifestyle. But her life is shattered when her husband slaps her once at a party. Amrita files for a divorce and all throughout the course of the movie, is faced with one question: Is one slap enough to question what a relationship stands for?
The plot of the movie revolves around the couple accusing each other and proving themselves right. The movie also highlights the dilemma women in our society face about continuing a relationship even after getting humiliated or not. Taapsee Pannu’s character in Thappad is seen various times questioning herself if she is doing the right thing. Over the course of the movie, many other women are seen getting inspired by Taapsee Pannu’s character Amrita and question their value in their families as well. For example, Amrita’s maid, who was a victim of domestic violence, after a point refuses to succumb to the pressures of society and reacts against the violence.
Amrita and Vikram Sabharwal are happily married Vikram works in a reputed company while Amrita is a homemaker and her life surrounds only around him.Vikram gets promotion and they are soon to shift to London and throw a celebration party at the party Vikram finds that he wont be heading the London office and will have to work under his junior.Vikram gets in tiff with his colleague for the same while Amrita is trying to stop him and gets slapped by him this incident hurts her very badly and life does not remain the same for while Amrita decides to leaves the house and shift at her parents place further also taking the matter to the court.

Towards the end of the movie, Taapsee Pannu’s character Amrita and her husband go through with the divorce. Her husband tells her that he has quit his job in Hampsted as he did not have a home without her. He requests her to keep visiting him as a friend after he apologised to her for everything he did and they both end things on a friendly note.
Various scenes are shown where Amrita’s father gives a harmonium to his wife that she had put away as she wanted to take care of her family and husband. Amrita’s mother-in-law is seen going out for physical exercise and taking care of her health. Amrita’s maid is seen dancing in her house without a freckle of fear. This could imply that she took a leap of faith and left her husband.
Taapsee Pannu’s movie is a strong message which denotes that even in the modern world and families, these issues crop up. A woman, when she asks for her rights or raises her voice against something, she is discouraged. In the movie too, Taapsee Pannu’s character Amrita was charged with mental harassment of her in-laws and was proven a mentally sick person in front of the court. All of this happened despite her being the ‘best’ kind of housewife.

More than anything, however, Thappad is the story of all Indian women and their silent suffering, which seems to be inbuilt. The film focuses on Amrita, but also juxtaposes her story with those of the women around her. The domestic help, Sunita, who is beaten up every day by her drunk husband; Amrita’s hot-shot lawyer, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage with a pompous, patronising man; Amrita’s mother and mother-in-law — women who never had an avenue to even question anything done to them.By showing women of different levels of privilege and with different mindsets, the writers smartly depict how, no matter how privileged you might be, just the fact of being a woman and suffering the discrimination therein, is a kind of equaliser.The performances are also what bring this hard-hitting tale to life. Pannu does a great job bringing out Amrita’s inner turmoil with just silence and minimal dialogue. She is shell-shocked but determined to get justice for this gross violation. Gulati also does a great job portraying a man who is blinded by privilege and the patriarchal system he lives in. Shah, Mishra and Tanvi Azmi do well as supporting actors, and Maya Sarayo, who plays Amrita’s lawyer, beautifully portrays an ambitious woman slowly getting disillusioned about her life and marriage. Thappad will make audiences — especially men — uncomfortable and squirm in their seats as it very quietly shows the privilege they take for granted, irrespective of how ‘woke’ they are. In all its understated glory, the film will speak to every woman, irrespective of the degree of violence she may have faced in life. But most importantly, it will change the way you react to violence and will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.The central conflict appears early. Frustrated about an upcoming project, Vikram gets into an argument with his boss, and accidentally slaps Amu in an ongoing house party. There are no further arguments. The party goes on, and Amu retreats to her room. The next day, too, everything is disconcertingly… normal. Vikram comes to her, holds her hand, and says, “You know how things have been. I was so stressed last night.” He doesn’t say sorry. He then talks about himself. Amu keeps quiet.Sinha then cuts to a conversation between the house help and her husband, “I don’t know why I get worried. Everyone slaps after all.” Later, with respect to his job, Vikram says, “Amu, I don’t want to stay in a place where I’m not valued” and on a subsequent evening, “Amu, I tell you. Put your bloody foot down in life.” It’s as if the film is unfolding in two parallel layers – one that is only accessible to Vikram and the other to Amu, to us.

By filming these scenes life-like, Sinha repeatedly arrives at a larger truth: that this is how it feels – a mundane reality that so many, including this writer, are often unaware of. A pattern that Bollywood – and this society itself – has repeated through the decades. What we experience throughout Thappad is not just heartbreak and compassion but something we’re not ordinarily used to: shame. That despite our ‘best intentions’ this happens, that you don’t really need to look or sound like a villain to be one yourself. Even when Amu moves to her house, she sees in her brother – dependent on his wife without appreciating her importance – shades of Vikram, perhaps shades of all men.

Thappad though isn’t a film that is cut from the same fabric of #AllMenTrash. Despite being alive to systems of oppression, it is gentle. It’s a film about muted grievances, yet it’s not angry. Not loud, yet holds its ground – and more importantly, doesn’t give anyone an easy pass or lowers the standards of acceptable behaviour.
Almost towards the end, most characters realise that Amrita (Taapsee), too, is a human being and deserves to be treated as one. Even her brother had initially refused to understand her feelings and scolded his own girlfriend for having helped with legal assistance. However, when he realises his mistakes, he tells his girlfriend that he wants to “reboot” and become worthy of her but she wants to “reboot together”. It is a sweet gesture of love and understanding on both sides. Not really one in the film, but a post-credit scene shows the mother-in-law (Tanvi Azmi) coming out of her house with a bottle of beverage – much like most women in the film did for their husbands – but is seen heading ahead for jogging, the bottle meant for herself. 

AUTHOR

-Jagruthi Rao
Christ University