In Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad, these are the lines that play in the background when Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) first gets a second to herself and expresses more than shock over the fact that her husband hit her. Two days after the incident has already taken place.
Toot ke hum dono mein, jo bacha woh kam sa haiEk tukda dhoop ka, andar hi andar namm sa hai
For two days, she is shuffling between fulfilling her responsibilities and trying to come to terms with the incident. It takes her two days, because she is not allowed time to herself.
Because, in a patriarchal society, a majority of women live with an instinctive, albeit flawed notion, of putting family and household above self.
Thappad is an expertly crafted drama that starkly highlights the far-reaching effects of patriarchy. More importantly, it serves as an important, brilliant reminder of how deep-rooted patriarchal beliefs in both men and women are. Which is why, sometimes, despite the best of intentions, both men and women let a woman suffer.
As Vikram’s (Pavail Gulati) boss says to him, that no matter how angry he was, hitting his wife was wrong. More importantly, he would have never done the same with his boss, then, why was it so easy to do so with his wife?
The movie’s story was evident in the trailer itself. Amrita and Vikram live a near idyllic life, where she shoulders the household responsibility and he focuses on earning a livelihood. As she reiterates throughout the film, it was her choice to be a housewife.
However, the makers take great pains to highlight the cracks in their picture-perfect lives – cracks that Amrita remains blind to, even as the audience is immediately aware of them. Because it is always difficult to find the faults in a routine you’ve become accustomed to.
It is an evening party and Vikram’s unexpected burst of anger that puts things into perspective for Amrita. But it is not an immediate transformation.
After all, the life you’ve built for years, and the emotions you’ve felt so strongly, can not change in a second. But they do change. And in this instance, they change for the worse when Amrita comes to the realization that she had lost her individual identity in her husband’s life.
The film’s writing and direction deserve complete credit because each point that the movie makes is slowly put into focus. The filmmakers allow you to actually see a situation from varying perspectives -perspectives that exist in the society for real.
Like the scene where Amrita’s father (an impossible-to-ignore brilliant performance by Kumud Mishra) realizes, that his own wife (the forever fabulous, Ratna Pathak Shah) had to sacrifice her dreams after marriage. It’s shocking to him because he has raised his own daughter to be fiercely independent. What is more saddening is that he failed to recognize his wife’s sacrifices, because patriarchy made him blind to it.
An equally wonderful juxtaposition that film subtly highlights is how, if some women are Amrita’s support system, other women, including her own mother, are the ones who undermine her stance.
Because, and this again is an attack on patriarchy, women have been ‘taught’ to behave a certain way for so long, that even taking a stand for your own self-respect is at times, an alien thought to them. As Amrita’s mother-in-law (Tanvi Azmi) says, “Bardaaasht karne ki aadat daalo.”
And it’s thanks to the well-developed characters that varying ideologies are brought to play in a seamless manner. Because every character, no matter how minor or major their screen presence is, plays an integral role in taking the story forward.
However, the film’s true win, at least for me personally, was a much-needed focus on the fact that happiness never means the same thing for everyone, but its existence is integral to any relationship.
Amrita raises a very important question in the movie – the expectation that she should ‘move on’ from getting hit upon is unfair. At the same time though, she also highlights that the slap was the incident that made her realize, she had fallen out of love. And that should be grounds enough to seek a divorce because her happiness is just as important as her husband’s.
Thappad is a beautiful film that touches upon various issues, and awards equal attention to each of them. Even it’s bittersweet ending helps tie up loose knots, despite appearing more idealistic than realistic.
With just a single song serving as a background score, no monologues but multiple important dialogues, and a profound, aching silence that allows actors’ emotions to speak volumes, Thappad packs a punch. And serves as the perfect example of how permeating are the effects of patriarchy. And just how much work is needed to change the fabric of society and bring it to an equal footing.
All images are from the trailer on YouTube.