Thappad, a sensational movie with a resounding slap to the flawed gender imbalanced social structure. Amrita is a dutiful housewife happy to complete household chores. Until one day, her husband Vikram slaps her across the face in a fit of rage at an evening party. She refuses to accept their nuptial relation any longer and files for divorce. But can her comeback be simplified as “overreaction”? Is one slap enough to judge what a relationship nestles on?
Thappad demands answers to questions nobody dares to ask. The story doesn’t only play out around Amrita’s life in a strident tone. It doesn’t forget to include the lives of her mother Sandhya, her brother’s fiancée Swati, mother-in-law Sulekha, maid Sunita who is a regular victim of domestic abuse by her husband, successful neighbour Shivani, and her divorce lawyer Netra Jaisingh. This all-inclusive plot of how these women vary in economic status, occupation, relations and mindset, and yet are ends of the same string is a very impressive feat by director and writer Anubhav Sinha along with writer Mrunmayee Lagoo.
Amrita aspired to be a dancer in her younger years. But she chose to be a housewife, handling the home, while Vikram earned for the family. A typical circumstance. She worked from dawn to dusk, arranging Vikram’s files, handing him his wallet and coffee every day before office, checking Sulekha’s blood sugar level, cooking with Sunita, watering the plants and whatnot. She was quite contented that way. She never held grudges or complained for more.
It wasn’t until that one slap that she began to see every little thing that is so unfair in her relationship with Vikram. As she explained to Netra later in the movie, and I quote, “Uss ek thappad se mujhe woh sari unfair cheeze saaf saaf dikhne lagg gayi jisko main undekha karke move on karte ja rahi thi.”
As film critic Anupama Chopra puts it, “It’s almost like he slaps her awake from slumber and it’s impossible for her to fall back into the facade of domestic tranquility.”
Everyone around Amrita, including her mother as well as her legal counsel Netra, suggests her to just “move on”- Itni si baat hai- since the judicial options could get ugly and messy (which it does later in the movie). To which Taapsee Pannu in her powerful role as Amrita strongly asserts, “Just a Slap par nahi maar sakta!”
The film refuses to disregard the simplicity of the adage “these things happen in marriage.” They do, but should they? His boss and superiors were the ones Vikram was mad on. Would he have hit them? No. But it’s just more acceptable to vent your fury on your wife.
Amrita, despite the aggression shown by Vikram and his lawyer to make her recant the divorce proposition, contains her morals and does not accept a share of his property as compensation. She didn’t want money or property. All she wanted were two things that she clearly states—respect and happiness.
Things get more complicated when she finds out she is expecting. Vikram is insistent on having custody of the child, when it was never even a custody battle. She only didn’t want to keep pretending that she loved him.
Now let’s consider the most brutal fact about Vikram. He is not a villain. He is not an antagonist. He is not a typically violent person who has hit Amrita previously. I cannot stress this enough when I say, he is your average entitled Indian man. He doesn’t support domestic violence but he defends his act. He is willing to do whatever it takes to get Amrita back home. You cannot blame him for his mindset because his family has shaped it that way, the society has shaped it that way. Even if he doesn’t say it aloud, somewhere inside him believes that women aren’t as eligible as men. He thinks so because he has grown up watching his father handle all the important business matters while his mother slaves away at the kitchen and is not allowed to participate in discussions. After all, what do women know of business? The film shows how even the most supportive men like Amrita’s father can unwittingly be moulded that way.
Then there’s the neighbour Shivani. She owns the same house as Vikram as well as the same car, which equates her in the same financial status as him. She is a loving widow living with her teenage daughter. When Vikram requests her to lie in court that no such slap took place that night at the party, she replies she’ll pretend she didn’t hear him say that.
The affluent lawyer Netra Jaisingh should also be brought into consideration. She is the example that not even the most successful women can escape sexism as her husband doesn’t give her the deserving credit for her wins. He credits his father instead who is the well-known retired Chief Justice Jaisingh. He credits himself for introducing her to clients. There is even an incident I would go as far as to the term “marital rape” as he forces her to have sex despite her clear unwillingness.
The film highlights sexism, but not the obvious sexist acts looking you in the eye. Rather it is the minutiae of sexism, wherein a female is expected to behave a certain submissive way, she is not credited for her own achievements, and she is to compromise because maintaining the home is of paramount importance… she is to move on. [Read the full article on Minutiae of Sexism here: http://thisistda.net/the-minutiae-of-sexism/]
Amrita’s bold unwavering act moves Netra to start afresh and open her own law firm, her brother Karan to treat Swati with more respect, Vikram to realise his errors, Sulekha to be treated with care by her husband, even the maid Sunita to fight back her abusive husband. This movie is a long overdue slap in the society’s face.
I strongly recommend that you sit through this 142-minute eye-opening journey.