Words or actions can never mean what you want them to mean, it is the perceived meaning which is the reality of your message. Now let’s add gender to this statement, within a marriage, what a husband says or does and how the wife perceives it is governed by their gendered upbringing. What is okay for a man to say or do is not okay for a woman or vice versa. This is gendered conditioning and governed by this, women are often told to take things in their stride and move on for the sake of the relationship. However, there is a line which cannot or should not be toed-in every relationship. Thappad talks about what happens when this line is crossed.
The Anubhav Sinha film revolves around how a one-off slap by her husband (Vikram played by Pavail Gulati) in house party pushes Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) to re-evaluate her position in her marriage. And as the story unfolds, we see how this one decision influences women in Amrita’s life to do the same. At the end of the film, there is not just Amrita who has re-negotiated the dynamics of her relationships and reclaimed her life but we have a bunch of other women cutting across class, age and social and financial positions who have done so in their own ways. This shared experience is what made the story so unique to me.
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I think one of the finest scenes in the film is Taapsee manically rearranging the furniture in the house after the fateful events at the party. Without a word being spoken that scene describes the state of her mind so potently. It is this subtlety which makes the story so great.
At the end of the film, there is not just Amrita who has re-negotiated the dynamics of her relationships and reclaimed her life but we have a bunch of other women cutting across class, age and social and financial positions who have done so in their own ways.
If in the opening scene it is an ice lolly that connects all the women characters, it is the sameness of their experiences which binds them together by the end of the film. Whether it is Tanvi Azmi, the mother in law, staying in a loveless marriage, Ratna Pathak Shah, the mother, giving up her dreams of singing to prioritise her family, Maya Sarao, the divorce lawyer, holding on to her marriage only because of the family name, or Naila Grewal, the brother’s girlfriend, who is the first one to stand by Amrita, they all feel the same way that the men in their lives don’t care what they want from the relationship. Among a bundle of finely etched characters and great acting, my personal favourite is Geetika Vidya’s Sunita the resilient domestic help who keeps getting beaten up by her husband for no reason.
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In a certain sense, Sunita is Amrita’s alter ego as she can say and do a lot of things, unlike Amrita, probably because of her social positioning. The first connection between the two is shown when the day after the party Sunita is giving Amrita a head message and says, “didi marte to sab hai.” Just like Amrita who walks out of the relationship without laying claim over any of her husband’s possessions, only to keep her self-respect intact, in the end, Sunita too quietly leaves the money given to her by Vikram as part of her raised salary. She redeems her self-respect in more physical ways than any other character, first by giving back a good thrashing to her husband (something Amrita says she cannot do because of her upbringing) and then by dancing in her room with the television playing in the full blast. Those huge pink flowers in her hair are telling the tale of her emancipation.
In a certain sense, Sunita is Amrita’s alter ego as she can say and do a lot of things, unlike Amrita, probably because of her social positioning.
The film also has a very refreshing take on a father-daughter relationship. It is rare in Bollywood films that we have a father (Kumud Mishra) who stands by his daughter’s decision to seek divorce. He defends her just because it is the right thing to do, forgetting about the social repercussions. And he tries to redeem himself a bit by handing over the old harmonium to his wife when he realizes his faults.
Thappad stirs you up without showing the violence and definitely pushes you to introspect. It reemphasises the truth that love cannot be unconditional if basic tenets of a relationship like self-respect is challenged.
Image Credit: YouTube screenshot
The views expressed are the author’s own.