Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Pavail Gulati, Ratna Pathak Shah, Tanvi Azmi, Dia Mirza
Director: Anubhav Sinha
The central scene in Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad is also among the film’s best scenes. Everything is going so well until then (by design no doubt), you want to actually root for this couple. You can see it’s an unequal relationship but it’s not without its moments, and the good ones seem to outweigh the bad ones… But when that slap eventually lands on Taapsee’s Amrita’s face, it doesn’t just happen all at once. Everything doesn’t come crashing down in an instance. It’s instead, all in slow-mo. You can feel the sting, you can sense the world slow down around her. You can feel her humiliation. Taapsee is rivetting in this party scene like she’s living Amrita’s life. As is Pavail Gulati as Vikram. And in all of the scenes that follow. He’s so self-involved, I was reminded of Scar Jo’s now-famous lines from Marriage Story; he’s so merged with his selfishness that he can’t even see it.
The film isn’t at all activist-y though it does have lines that take away from being about the people in the film. The trailer had me thinking maybe this is one of those court-room screaming matches, or one woman fighting for all women, kind of film. But it isn’t. It is about this woman and what she wants from her life.
Each day is the same in Amrita’s life as she endeavors in all seriousness to become the best housewife she can be. She takes care of her mother-in-law and is almost her husband’s assistant at home, as he prepares for the most important presentation of his life.
Everything is seemingly going well, even after the slap, but it isn’t… She feels all of the things he feels at work after being looked over for this promotion, the insult at being used and not taken seriously. When he says ‘put your foot down and make them respect you’, she hears it as a commentary of her own life. He should get her, ideally, but he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t see her.
Things don’t work all that well in the film whenever the camera veers away from these two people. The writing of nearly everyone else feels like convenient add-ons; like everyone is a bit ‘extra’. None of them feel fully authentic the way these two do. Not the help, not the neighbour, not the (again Marriage Story-like) lawyer (or her emotional crutch or husband), not her brother, sometimes not even her parents. All of them feel performative. Like a play to prop these two characters up.
Yet, the central story, of the woman and man at the heart of this tale, is enough to keep you watching the movie. Their story has weight. In some portions, the film reminded me of Arth but it never really fully reaches that artistic plane. That ‘this is cinema’. Perhaps because it endeavours to be more social commentary than art or cinema.
Maybe it’s a coincidence that in Soni in which a superb Geetika Vaidya plays a young cop disillusioned with the system has Amrita Pritam’s Raseedi Ticket given to her, and in this movie, she’s working in an Amrita’s house… and film ends with the recital of a poem titled Amrita. Here too, there’s disillusionment with the system. And women are fighting it to reclaim something simple and basic: dignity. Respect and happiness, as Amrita says.
The film’s biggest triumph is in showing the ways in which women are stifled, without any words ever being spoken by anyone. At least not harsh words. It’s in how we are brought up from when we are little girls. It’s what we are brought up for. For not inconveniencing anyone.
The Thappad review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.