Thappad, a film by Anubhav Sinha, is actually not about ‘just a slap’ but it talks about the human rights in a very profound manner without any element of melodrama. Thappad is such a timely release, ten days prior to International Women’s day. UN’s theme for women’s day this year is I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights. The year 2020 is a pivotal year for advancing gender equality worldwide, as the global community takes stock of progress made for women’s rights so far. The campaign #EachForEqual has actually caught the attention of many worldwide. And Thappad is so much in sync with theme of International Women’s day. It talks about how a woman puts herself, her wants, desires, ambitions, emotions etc. as the last in her priority list. But how a thappad, which is also a metaphor for ‘that tough push’ which shakes her to the core and that is when her conscience is awakened. If the statistical figures are to be believed, it might take another 200 years for the Generation Equality to be a reality, but if each one of us starts becoming instrumental in our own ways to ensure gender fairness, equality, may be, it is possible that 200 years may be reduced and generation equality can become a reality in an accelerated manner. Anubhav’s film Thappad definitely shakes the conscience of people, be it any gender. Anubhav’s approach in the film does not categorize the film and bracket the same as a Feminist Film but it is very much a Humanist Film. His few earlier films Article 15, Mulk also highlighted certain pivotal points of our society to reflect upon. Thappad shows how men and women have conditioned themselves in the society and defined the ‘normal’, but the question is who defines this ‘Normal’ and what is the degree of this ‘Normal’ and what is the tolerance limit for this ‘Normal’?
While the story is centrally driven by protagonist couple Amrita and Vikram (Taapsee and Pavail), four more couples’ stories are interspersed along with it. Amrita has chosen to be a housewife, an ardent lover of dance and a good dancer herself. Vikram is busy with his corporate life. Amrita deftly manages household chores, takes care of her mother-in-law Sulakshana (Tanvi Azmi) and Vikram. Another couple is Nethra and Rajeev (Maya Sarao and Manav Kaul), from the fraternity of advocates. Then there is Sunita (Geetika Vidya), Amrita’s domestic help, who is beaten by her husband every day. Ankur and Naina have played the roles of Taapasee’s brother Karan and his love interest Swati respectively. Another couple is Sandhya (Ratna Pathak Shah) and Sachin (Kumud Mishra) as Taapsee’s parents. Shivani (Dia Mirza) as single parent is shown to be comfortable in her own skin, and successful.
The film beautifully crafts various characters. If Amrita’s love is shaken and her self-respect is at stake with one slap, then there is Sunita also, for whom, the beating by husband is so normal. If someone is stuck in a loveless marriage since years and does not even bother to look at one’s own happiness, there is someone else who is just stuck in loveless marriage assuming the family legacy to be the reason for her success. Shivani’s character is so self-assured in herself. She feels that her love with husband was so effortless.
There are lot of scenes which reflects various elements, characters of our society. The world is definitely moving towards ‘Generation Equality’ where Amrita is ready to walk-out of her marriage citing ‘Just a slap’ a reason in her petition and without demanding any alimony. A woman with power of character, who is not ready to be in a marriage, where she is unable to feel the love. Taapsee’s dialogue reiterates that a woman, who is also a procreator – the mother of tomorrow, is shaping the destiny of civilization. And so only, it would be sad, if she ends up compromising on her own self-respect. Sunita’s character is so used to physical abuses, that it has become very ‘normal’ for her. Sunita’s mother-in-law seems to be the alter ego of all those women, who suffered in their marriage, and now they seek a kind of sadistic pleasure when they see their son physically abusing wife and repeating the history. This very ‘Normal’ makes a progressive husband like Sachin oversee his wife’s desire to pursue music. This very ‘Normal’ makes Vikram wonder how ‘Just a Slap’ can be a reason for Amrita to walk out of marriage. Instead of feeling apologetic, Vikram is all the more puzzled and he expects Amrita to understand him that the slap happened at the spur of a moment when he was professionally disturbed. This very ‘Normal’ makes Amrita’s mother-in-law requesting Amrita to ignore the slap. For Amrita’s mother, how can Amrita even walk out of marriage given the fact that Vikram is a good man. For Amrita’s brother, it is such a silly thing. But there are other male characters viz. Sachin, who trusts her daughter’s instincts while she decides to walk out of marriage. A powerful moment in the film is created by Rajhans (Harssh A Singh) boss of Vikram, when he questions the very thought or intent of Vikram in even slapping Amrita and taking it for granted. As a Divorce lawyer, when Nethra advocates Amrita to put some non-facts viz. domestic violence etc. in petition, Nethra justifies the same saying that ‘Just a Slap’ is not sufficient to file the divorce. And on the other hand, her counterpart Advocate Pramod Gujral (Ram Kapoor) prompts Vikram to sign all kinds of petitions with all non-factual data. This is a reflection of how divorces turn ugly in our society and parting away gets so painful. At times, couples keep fighting for years and years without no good reason and drag the divorce matters. Manav Kaul as Nethra’s Husband Rajeev reflects the patriarchal conditioning of our society, where he negates his wife’s identity completely and feels that she is nothing without him and his family. Physical abuse and Emotional abuse both are unacceptable.
So, in a way, every character is very thoughtfully crafted and, in a way, mirrors the reality of various households. The film also shows, how some characters are re-negotiating their relationships. If women are shown taking some concrete steps in the direction of protecting their own self-respect, choosing to be happy and self-assured from within, men are also shown with some mindframe shifts of accepting the very identity of women in their lives – be it their wife, or mother or sister, feeling apologetic for overseeing their needs, wants and desires. Women are shown setting the boundary and men are shown respecting the same. There are indeed more powerful scenes than mentioned in this review, where one character becomes the alter ego of the other and makes the person think differently and broaden the perception.
Thappad is a Humanist Film, which highlights how we as human beings are conditioned and driven by taboos and social stigma and get accustomed to ‘Normal’. But the question is who defines this ‘Normal’ and what is the degree of this ‘Normal’ and what is the tolerance limit for this ‘Normal’? Thappad uses very well-crafted characters to narrate the story and the intended messages without any melodrama. The film also chooses to use a combination of powerful non-verbals and minimal required dialogues throughout the film. The beauty of the film is that every character awakens a new circuitry in our mind. Watch the film for sure.
Rating: 4 / 5 (Very Good)
*Note: Hindi translation of this article (with some changes) is published on Badalav.com. http://badalav.com/bindu-cherungath-on-film-thappad/