Thappad begins with the routine family life of Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) a happily married housewife and her husband, Vikran (Pavail Gulati). Vikram works in a reputed company and is aggressively focused on climbing the corporate ladder that will ultimately take him to London, as the head honcho. Amrita is aware of how much his career means to Vikram, and is fully focused on supporting her husband. Her life revolves around looking for his comfort and attending to his mother, Sulochana (Tanvi Azmi).
Vikarm is elated when he is selected for the desired role and throws a celebration party to his friends. During the celebration, he gets the news that another white man is deemed more appropriate and Vikram would be reporting to him. Vikram has a heated argument with one of his superiors Rajhans, who was attending the party. When Amrita comes in the middle and tries to stop him for escalating the argument, Vikram’s anger turns on her and he slaps her. This thappad begins a chain of events and forms the core theme of the movie.
This movie is a MeToo moment for me and is personal for me in several ways, although for me, it wasn’t the first thappad and lack of apology. But after I let go of the first thappad after tearful apologies, the apologies became less frequent and genuine and then disappeared, and thappads became more routine. In a changing India, Amrita refuses to brush off this single incident of violence and public humiliation. When she questions her life choices and finally her marriage, Vikran propelled by anger and bad advice, transforms a no contest, mutual consent divorce into a full blown court battle. That was another MeToo moment for me and a reminder of the time when my appeal for mediation was thrown out and the accusations and fake accusations were launched, casting me as an abuser and mentally unstable. It is easy to be charming in public and in periods of happiness, but as a society and in family units, we need to ask a question, how do people react under stress and outside of the public eye, and do women get to bear the brunt of family stress and do they lose their right to be happy, one smile at a time?
The movie does not make light of a thappad, nor does it make a thappad bigger than what it is. Instead, what the film does is to serve as a thoughtful reminder that abuse should not be an acceptable aspect in a relationship and love, respect and happiness are closely tied together. Amrita says, मुझे वहां रहना नथी जहाँ पे मेरी वेल्यू न हो and she says, “I want to be happy and when I say, I am happy, I don’t want to look unreal”. Even while making a compelling case for a woman’s right to genuine happiness, the movie does not downgrade into men bashing thoughtlessness. And even when the movie focuses on happiness which would be at a higher level in Maslows’s hierarchy of needs, the film does not fail to show the struggles of women like Amrita’s maid, who are battling domestic violence at home on a daily basis, while working in low level jobs.
What is working so beautifully in the movie is that the dialogs are natural and low key. Huge kudos to Director Anubhav Sinha and co script writers Sinha and Mrunmayee Lagoo to not just stir up passions but make this a strongly worded film of significance. Tapsee Pannu is fabulous in conveying the impact of her experience and her dilemma without getting acrimonious, loud or overbearing. Her restrained acting with impactful dialogs serves as moments of reckoning about the assumptions and expectations surrounding women’s roles in Indian society. The entire cast including Kumud Sharma (Amrita’s adoring father), Pavil Gulati (Vikram), Ratna Pathak Shah (Amrita’s mother), Tanvi Azmi (Amrita’s mother in law), Maya Sarao (Amrita’s lawyer) and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan (Amrita’s maid) show the restraint and deliver a powerful film. On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being perfect), I rate the film as 4.9.