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Dealing with a subject like domestic violence is not an easy thing to do. But Thappad does it effectively and leaves you wondering where one should draw a line.
When I saw the trailer for Taapsee Pannu’s Thappad a few weeks ago, I was genuinely interested in watching the film. And it wasn’t just because domestic violence is a cause I care about but because I wanted to see how they deal with the subject when it’s ‘just one slap.’ And the movie did not disappoint.
It begins with a few very sweet scenes of people in love eating ice candies and for a few moments you wonder if you’ve stepped into the wrong theatre! Then, the music is a happy tune that lures you into thinking that it’s all going to be happy and builds up to the moment of the slap and flips you upside down.
Note: This review contains some spoilers
Taapsee plays the character Amrita, who for the most part is only known as Vikram’s wife, a role she is happy to fall into. She wakes up early in the morning, makes herself a cup of tea that she enjoys in her balcony while watering the plants. Her life is cosy, happy and she has no complaints.
Vikram, on the other hand, is every entitled male ever. He needs his wife to wake him up with a cup of tea everyday, cook him breakfast and walk him to his car – his wallet, a cup of coffee and jacket in her hands. On the surface, Vikram is a feminist, an educated man. But there are these moments when his subtle entitlement and patriarchal mindset come to light.
One such moment, for me, was when he sees Dia Mirza, their neighbour, drive away in a car. He says, in a very snarky tone, “Isne fir se nayi gaadi khareed li? Karti kya hai ye?”
While Taapsee gives him a good answer, “Mehnat,” (hard work) you can’t help but notice his subtle jabs at Dia Mirza’s job (or maybe it was just me, thinking of ways to not like the man).
But there is another such moment when you understand that he genuinely is an entitled person. He is shown driving to work with his friend, when he honks and says something on the lines of, “Pata nahi kahan se aa jati hai, gaadiyan utha ke” (How do these women get to drive a car?!)
Vikram is up for a promotion at his job, one that he and Amrita have been looking forward to – this is the promotion that will take them to London. He, apparently, ‘kills’ the presentation and is awaiting the news now. And along with him, so is his mother, Amrita, her family and even their domestic helper and Dia Mirza’s daughter, whom Amrita teaches kathak.
He gets the promotion (duh uh) and like every entitled man ever, decides to throw a last minute party. And guess who’s in-charge of all the party arrangements? Bingo, if you said Amrita! Like the dutiful, content wife she is, she ensures that the party is a roaring success until…Vikram gets a call from his boss, who ironically, is named Thapad. (Kudos to the writer for this little pun!)
Vikram learns that he would be working under some British guy in London – which wasn’t a part of the deal. And this blows his fuse.
What follows next leads to the slap we all saw in the trailer, and this is where the movie flips you over on your head. And along with you, Amrita too.
While her mother, sister-in-law and her brother’s girlfriend Swati try to console her, her mother-in-law comes in and asks her to wipe her face and go back to the party since guests were there. For me, this was one of the most poignant moments in the movie as it showed how all these women reacted differently to that one split second.
Their relationship changes in a fundamental way, though for Vikram, life goes on as usual, albeit with a much sadder wife. How Amu eventually reacts to the situation, and why ‘one slap’ is cause enough for a relationship to rupture, forms the rest of the movie – and it keeps you hooked.
Taapsee Pannu as Amu really owns the movie. She does great justice to the role and speaks volumes with her facial expressions and eyes. Pavail Gulati as Vikram is that one guy we all know – misogynistic, arrogant and just entitled. You start with thinking he’s not so bad, but after a point, you just want him to grow up and be a human, instead of the man-child he is.
Both the mothers, Ratna Pathak Shah and Tanvi Azmi are wonderful. They are the ones who crushed their dreams to have a family. The ones who tell Taapsee that women need to adjust, and that this is all a part of life. You can’t hate them for that’s how they grew up.
Geetika Vidya Ohlyan as the domestic worker at the couple’s home is simply brilliant. She’s a simple woman whose husband beats her and her solution to that is to lock him out of the house. Not the best solution but it works for her.
Maya Sarao as Amrita’s lawyer Netra Jaisingh is whom I’d want to represent me if I ever were in a legal battle. And Naila Grewal as Swati, would probably the most relatable character to a number of us. She is strong and fierce with her own set of values and stands by Amrita throughout the movie. Dia Mirza as Shivani, Amrita’s neighbour and a single mum strengthens your belief in the sisterhood that women have. She is strong and she will stand her moral ground, I loved her!
The rest of the cast is great as well. Director Anubhav Sinha has managed to get characters that fit their roles perfectly, be it Taapsee’s loving but fierce dad or Ram Kapoor as Vikram’s cut-throat lawyer.
But what made the movie especially brilliant to me, was the fact that it was NOT shot from the male gaze. You see things as a woman would, you see Vikram’s entitlement from his first scene, or how Taapsee is the only one managing the house. It has very little of the trademark Bollywood drama and the music is not too in-your-face. The songs fit their sequence and are soothing.
If I were a fancy reviewer, I’d definitely give this a 4.5/5.
Do let me know what you think in the comments below.
Picture credits: Still from the movie Thappad
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Reader, writer and currently an Associate Editor at Women's Web, I survive on coffee
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