Posts Tagged Ratna Pathak Shah
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.
Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, 2017 Bollywood film, “Lipstick Under My Burkha” gives an intimate, powerful glimpse into the lives of four women; Rihana (Plabita Borthakur) draped in burkha at home, helps her parents in sewing burkhas, but outside she does a quick identity change and steps into her jeans and sings Led Zeppelin songs; Shireen (Konkona Sen Sharma) lives the story of a submissive wife with her chauvinistic husband at home and excels at her secret job as a saleswoman during the day, Leela (Aahana Kumra) works as a beautician and finds solace in sex, and Usha (Ratna Pathak Shah) is the respected Buaji to her family but in the lonely hours of the night, dreams of men and has clandestine phone sex.
Stories of these women unfold in the midst of a background narrative of Rozi, a fictional heroine in one of the racy romance novels that Buaji hides in her religious tomes and reads in her spare time. These four women live their lives on the the thin line between reality and dreams. They have to routinely lie, cheat and steal to rob few moments of joy from their unbearable lives.
Their stories are poignant and touching and at the same time, ordinary. For the most part, Indian society exhibits a great deal of hipocrisy. While hipocrisy in Indian society extends to practices and observances around religious rituals, behavior around elders, and observance of class and caste, most prominent and often shocking hipocritical norms and double standards are observed in expectations and prescribed rules of behavior specific to each gender. While a man lusting after a younger woman or having an affair outside his marriage may be looked down upon, it is considered much less severe than if a woman may have committed these offences; and how a society punishes a woman for the same offense if often far more harsh. Similarly, while most boys and men have freedom to wear clothes they choose, and have wide degrees of professional freedom, it is simply not so for women.
This movie offers a window into the lives of ordinary women who strike deals with societal restrictions on a daily basis with alternating periods of acquiescing to the norms and restrictions and determinedly enjoying periods of bliss when they can. But the beauty in this movie is that it is also poignant in where this journey ends for these women, in the movie. While it is unclear how life will eventually unfold for each of these women, these ostracized women come together as comrades; they talk, laugh, and read and discuss Rozi’s fictional story. What is abundantly clear is that it is not the system that will change to accommodate them. The change will have to come from them and from their greater understanding and support of each other; that change only begins with dreams but it will take enormous commitment and courage on the path to greater fulfillment of the promise.
As Rihana reads last few pages of Rozi’s story, she comments
ye story bhi juth bolti hai, hamari life kharab ka deti hai
Translation: this fictional story also tells us lies
and Usha responds ……………
juth bolti hai shayad sapne dekhne ki himmat deti hai
Translation: It tells lies but gives us courage to dream
And narration continues……….
Khidki ki salakhe ab rozi ko rok nahi sakti. Rozi ne bar savare, aansu ponche aur chokhat ke bahar kud padi. pinjde me bandh sapno ki chabi akhir rozi ke dil ke andar hi thi.
Translation: Bars on the window can’t stop Rozi any more. Rozi combs her hair, dries her tears and jumps out. Photo of dreams locked inside the cage was after all inside Rozi’s heart.
Sometimes dream is a genie that is hard to push back in a bottle. As Dr. Martin Luther King famously said, “I have a dream” that started the process of change in the American society. Dreams help us imagine the possibilities and pave the path for courage and commitment required to change what has been until then normal. This is a beautiful movie and on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being excellent), I rate it 4.8. This review is slightly late for women’s day but still in the window of women’s history month :). Wishing all warrior women who drive the change on a daily basis and all courageous men who dare to dream of fair and inclusive society, a very happy women’s month.