Amrita's (Taapsee Pannu) world comes crumbling down when her fiercely ambitious husband, Vikram (Pavail Gulati), lands a mighty slap across the face at a party that was supposed to celebrate his success in the corporate world. Will Amrita, whose life so far has revolved around Vikram's needs, wants and dreams, stand up and speak up against this humiliation in public? Or will she brush it off as a one-off incident, forgive him and move on? Or will this shake up her own beliefs about life and marriage? Thappad Review: Hailing from a loving and supportive family in Delhi, and trained in Indian classical dance, Amrita's life could have taken a different course but she harboured the dream of being the best housewife ever, even if that meant giving up on her passion for dance. Vikram is a go-getter, and has his mind and heart are set on his goal and he will do everything in his capacity to achieve it. But, in a moment he realises that his big dreams are about to get shattered, blame it on office politics. Vikram does the unthinkable — his pent-up frustration finds an outlet in his committed wife, in the form of a thunderous slap that's witnessed by loved ones from both the sides. And, this sparks the beginning of an ugly, emotional battle which goes beyond domestic violence. While the uncalled for incident makes Amrita delve upon and question her life choices and their marriage, Vikram continues to live in denial and wonders how 'just one slap' is turning out to be a life-changing moment. Anubhav Sinha's 2 hours and 21 minutes-long social drama, which is made for a society that rarely talks about the emotional and psychological effects of domestic violence, is set to spark debates and discussions on various ground. One stress-fuelled slap at a party takes the form of a full-blown conversation pertaining to the unsaid rules of a marriage (where women are constantly reminded ki ghar zyada zaruri hain and that their actions will always be determined by log kya kehenge) and if it is acceptable for a husband to get away with what he considers one 'casual thappad' because he was fuming with anger. The film takes its own sweet time in expressing the dynamics of Amrita-Vikram's arranged marriage and how the two of them manage to blend in well with their financially-imbalanced, yet likeable, families. Sure, Vikram loves his wife, but he has made a monster out of his career goals, which the better half supports and harbours with all her heart. Even before the conflict arises, you can see an uber happy Taapsee making plans of a 'big blue door' at their future London apartment. Naturally, when the slap happens, her world turns over and even both sides of the families are divided on what is right, what is wrong and how much is too much, and the protocols of marriage in our Indian setting. Irrespective of various views thrown at her, Amrita is fiesty and resolves to channel the inner fighter in her and stands up for what she truly believes in — that even one slap is outrageous and not okay. 'Thappad' is not just a film aimlessly ranting about borderline domestic violence; it brings to light the years of conditioning that a woman is subjected to by her own family and society that she lives in. Other than the aforementioned couple, there are other women in focus, too — one who is bearing the brunt of a family's name and legacy, one hung up on the idea that marriage is the ultimate destination, one coming from the poorer section of the society who is compelled to believe that getting thrashed by the husband is the norm, and one who has loved and lost a fine husband and is now struggling to find a replacement who outdoes the former. Sinha manages to intertwine all these stories and juxtaposition them with one another at right junctions, without being too in-your-face about it. The subtly works beautifully even as the stark contrast in their lives unfold. Taapsee, as the submissive wife, who suddenly undergoes an ocean of change within her, is a firecracker of a performer in this drama. In one scene, where she bids goodbye to a crucial character, Taapsee delivers a speech that is cathartic to its very core. Her portrayal is restrained but at the same time in every scene she exposes a gamut of emotions — pain, disgust, regret and rage — without saying too much. If that is not a stupendous performance, we don't know what is. Pavail Gulati, as the determined corporate-slave with very intense life goals, pulls off a brilliant performance. You will want to hate him for his flaws, but his character is no less complex than the rest of them. Kumud Mishra, stands out as Amrita's father — an ardent supporter of his daughter — and at most times he is the only one who sticks up for her. Mishra's character reinstates why for a lot of daughters their father is their hero. Tanvi Azmi and Ratna Pathak Shah, as Amrita's mother-in-law and mother respectively, play their roles to a T — that of being the torchbearers of matriarchal mentality and trying to instill the same in the women of the house. However, Maya Sarao, who plays the high-profile lawyer Nethra Jaisingh, is the weakest link in the film. Not that she is bad, but others are so good that she gets overshadowed by some real power-packed performances. The music of the film (by Anurag Saikia) is beautifully melancholic in tone and blends in with the narrative. It is safe to say that Anubhav Sinha has rendered his career's best in this strong-worded social drama. He deserves an applause for the depth-handling of the various characters in the film, their greys, complexities, dilemmas without ever getting too loud, overbearing or trying too hard to make a statement. Yet, the film drives home a solid point and leaves you with enough to ponder upon. The fine and nuanced writing, by Anubhav and Mrunmayee Lagoo, deserves a special mention as that is what takes the film notches higher. To sum it up, 'Thappad' is a silent slap on our society's age-old belief that — shaadi mein sab kuch chalta hain. But honestly, should it be that way? And that is what we need to start talking about... now!Read full review
Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) confines herself in a corner of the house, contemplating on what just happened. Hours before this, the same house was bustling with guests dancing to popular Punjabi tracks. And all that maddening noise just drowned under the deafening silence of a slap. She storms into the living room, takes the pallu around her waist and secures it at the side, picks her hair up and fastens in a tight, messy bun, and starts to noisily move the furniture in the room back to their original place. The camera pans close and we see beads of sweat forming on her face in the dim light. The only sound in that scene is of the sweet jingling of the bangles and the harsh push-and-pull of the sofa. Somethings can go back to how they were, somethings cannot. Thappad is a simple story of an upper-middle-class couple based in Delhi. The wife is questioning if it is okay for her husband to slap her, even if it is a one-off case. But Thappad doesn’t leave it to just a question. At the core of the story is a human being’s ego, gender irrelevant here. Anubhav Sinha lends a certain subtlety to the film that a film like this needed. And given how lost subtlety is in Hindi cinema (Bollywood, essentially), Thappad hits you like that very slap that snapped Taapsee’s Amrita back into consciousness.The start-credits of the film are particularly memorable. Weaved almost like the last episode of Modern Love, Anubhav weaves stories of different women - the mother, the mother-in-law, the maid, the neighbour, the neighbour’s 13-year-old daughter, the brother’s girlfriend and Amrita - and their idea of love at different ages and stages of their life. And then, all these stories converge into one house, where Amrita is brewing her first cup of tea of the morning with a sprig of lemongrass cut from her kitchen window and a generous pinch of crushed ginger.Anubhav Sinha completes a trilogy, of sorts, touching upon religion, caste and gender with Mulk (2018), Article 15 (2019) and now Thappad. Two of these three have been in collaboration with Taapsee, and the ease that this director-actor duo shares, shows on screen. Taapsee, a self-proclaimed director’s actor, does her part well, following a Pied Piper-esque Sinha. She portrays rage and helplessness all at once through her eyes alone. The permanently plastered frown on her forehead may seem a tad overdone at times, but that’s essentially what Amrita’s life has come to - a crushing feeling of despair, not because she’s losing a husband but because even her husband doesn’t understand her, clouds her. How can she not frown? Pavail Gulati is quite the revelation, who manages to stand out in an ensemble cast comprising some of the best actors India has today, and despite the script being Taapsee-driven.Like so many films in this cluster of content-driven cinema (no, that’s not an apt name. Let’s call them 'real' cinema), the supporting cast excel. Kumud Mishra (Amrita’s father) is the man who stood up for his daughter when the society said beti hai, beta nahin. Ratna Pathak Shah (Amrita’s mother) is prickly and rough around the edges, but you know why she is the way she is when you realise shaadi mein compromise unhone bhi kiye hai, despite a seemingly understanding husband. Tanvi Azmi (Amrita’s mother-in-law) fights for her identity within a loveless marriage, hoping she’s more than a wife and a mother and that someone will hold her hand and tell her that. Dia Mirza (Amrita’s neighbour) is a widow still madly in love because no man can ever match up to the man she lost. Maya Sarao (Amrita’s divorce lawyer) is a tough divorce attorney fighting for the woman’s right on the outside, but struggles to come to terms with the fact that 'agar rishta jodke rakhna pade to toota hua hai' on the inside. And Geetika Vidya Ohlyan (Amrita’s house help), stuck between fighting for basic self-respect and getting regularly beaten up by her husband, accepts et al as fate, simply because 'agar bade gharon mein ho sakta hai toh main kya hoon'?Naila Grewal (Amrita's brother's girlfriend/future sister-in-law) is woke, aware and strongly sides with the right, especially when she's literally the first one to back Amrita, but finds herself up against a wall at the realisation that the man she's with, doesn't understand where and why it hurts.Towards the climax, Taapsee is given the mammoth responsibility of a monologue, with her entire family as audience around her. It’s her baby shower and she’s in her husband’s house only for the pooja, even as the divorce papers are being filed and stamped behind the camera. You cry. And also realise how monologues are actually done, as opposed to the Kartik Aaryan way. The downside of Thappad, however, is that in the process of establishing Amrita’s hurt, it ends up making her come across as whiny. The strength that Amrita shows through her actions, we wish was beaming through her face and eyes, too. We wonder if that’s something Anubhav consciously wanted, or if his vision was lost in translation. "Iss baar kamaunga tujhe," says Vikram in the last scene. The camera pans out with visuals of two cars driving away in opposite directions. Even though it might appear a bit wishful, we thought it was apt. Did Anubhav just reduce love to a currency? No, he didn’t. But earn it, you must.Read full review
Thappad, as the film’s title so unambiguously suggests, is about a slap. A slap that an otherwise amiable, good-natured man lands on his wife’s face in a moment of misdirected anger. In his defense, it is the first time he has raised his hand on her. In his defense, he has just found out that the professional goal he had nurtured, toiled hard for, and achieved, has been unfairly snatched away from him. In his defense, it happened in the heat of the moment. For his wife, no defense can justify the slap. It changes everything. It practically dismantles her life. In setting up this premise, director Anubhav Sinha, who has co-written the film with Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul, asks us repeatedly to consider whether Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) should, like everyone around her suggests, let it go and move on. It shouldn’t have happened, but “ab ho gaya na?” her husband Vikram (Pavail Gulati) laments. Her mother-in-law (Tanvi Azmi), with whom she has a loving relationship, says: “Thoda bardaasht karna seekhna chahiye auraton ko.” Her own mother (Ratna Pathak Shah) is distraught that she is considering divorce. Her brother describes it as “one small episode”, and thinks “it’s silly” that she’s taking it so far. Her neighbor, a widow (Dia Mirza), delivers that ultimate guilt trap: “Rishte banane mein utni effort nahin lagti jitna nibhane mein lagti hai.” Even her lawyer (Maya Sarao) advises her to go back and make it work. The film, and the slap at the centre of it, is not about domestic violence. It’s about entitlement. It’s about decades of conditioning. It’s about flawed social structures and outdated gender expectations. In Robert Altman-esque fashion, the film opens with a charming sequence in which an orange ice lolly is used as a motif to introduce several characters, before we learn how each fits into the protagonist’s orbit. Patriarchy and entitlement run deep; Amrita is hardly the only victim. There is the poor domestic help who suffers beatings from her husband routinely. There is the older woman, resentful that her loving husband never encouraged her to pursue her love for singing after marriage. There is the soon-to-be-married young couple, seemingly equal in their relationship until a tense interaction reveals otherwise. There is also the accomplished professional whose husband repeatedly credits her success to his family’s powerful connections. When Vikram slaps Amrita, every one of these relationships unravels. Shrewdly the very premise of the film and Amrita’s escalating reaction to the slap is plotted in such a way that you’re frequently compelled to ask: “Isn’t she taking it too far?” or “Surely she doesn’t need to make such a big deal of it?” The answer to those questions may be found in Vikram’s unmistakably selfish handling of the situation. But the thing is – and this is key – there are no easy answers here. The husband is no villain. Vikram is selfish, entitled, conditioned to put himself and his own pride before his wife, but he’s not a bad guy. He’s just every other Indian man. Knowing that, you’re confronted with the same question again: “Isn’t she overdoing it?” Don’t be embarrassed if you’re leaning dangerously close to answering yes; it’s exactly the position Sinha wants you to take. In fact, in a scripting masterstroke he raises the stakes at the halfway mark, putting the couple in such a situation that now you’re thinking: “Okay, this is too much. She must let it go.” But Thappad isn’t a film about a wife teaching her husband not to take her for granted. It’s about a woman rediscovering her sense of self, contemplating what is fair and what isn’t. It’s about no longer disregarding the deep-rooted sexism and selfishness, and the casual insensitivity that women contend with everyday. If any of this sounds like activism or social-message disguised to look like a movie, it’s honestly not. You’re very much invested in Amrita’s story. She is the fulcrum of Vikram’s uppercrust home in Delhi; she’s a supportive wife and a caring daughter-in-law. In one bristling moment she points out that the sacrifice of every woman who chooses to be a homemaker can be understood from the simple fact that no little girl when asked what she wants to grow up to be says ‘housewife’. In a film so well-made, minor quibbles stand out. The second hour feels stretched. The estrangement of Vikram and his mother from his uber rich father and brother is confusing. But these are minor quibbles. Sinha pulls off a complex story and extracts remarkable performances from his ensemble, justifying even those in tiny roles like Ram Kapoor and Manav Kaul. Of the main cast, Maya Sarao brings a sharp edge to the role of Amrita’s conflicted lawyer, and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan is terrific as her garrulous househelp. Dia Mirza is nicely understated as her neighbor, and both Ratna Pathak Shah and Tanvi Azmi are expectedly in fine form. Kumud Mishra stands out as Amrita’s supportive father, hitting all the right notes, and aided by some of the film’s most loaded lines. Pavail Gulati, in the difficult role of the husband, effectively plays him as clueless to his own shortcomings; it’s a competent performance in a nuanced role.Which brings us to the film’s axis, Taapsee Pannu. In a refreshing change of image, her Amrita is not the fierce, woman-on-the-warpath that she frequently tends to play. She’s a woman torn, she has both strength and fragility; it’s a beautifully realized performance. The script gives her some great moments to shine, and she seizes them. I was a mess by the time Amrita has that honest, wounding conversation with her mother-in-law towards the end of the film. I’m going with four out of five for Thappad. It’s a hard subject to pull off, but Anubhav Sinha achieves it with first-rate storytelling. The best films inspire dialogue, they set you thinking; they can even lead to change. This one made me uncomfortable; it made me question myself and I think it will make you too. It’s essential viewing.Read full review
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