“Just a slap?,” Amrita or Ammu (Taapsee Pannu) is asked again and again as she looks for validation, comfort and justice against an incident of physical abuse she has to bear from her husband Vikram (Pavail Gulati). A housewife in an affluent household, Ammu’s life had been seemingly normal before the incident.
She lives a comfortable life with her husband and mother-in-law (Tanvi Azmi) in a posh house with all the modern amenities. A zealous homemaker, Ammu’s lives her life in the same daily loop: doing chores, and taking care of her husband, mother-in-law, and the house. But one day when her drunk husband slaps her in front of party guests, things change for her.
Ammu starts questioning her position in the marriage. Where is her self-respect and dignity, she asks herself? Her life begins to unravel and she misses her pre-marriage happiness and freedom. The sacrifices she made in the marriage haunt her. Then the revelation that she, as an obedient housewife, has turned into nothing more than a commodity for her husband and her family strikes her hard. Ammu thus starts legal proceedings against her husband. All that for a slap. Because the slap rattles her conscience.
Directed and co-written by Anubhav Sinha, “Thappad” (‘Slap’) is a film that uses one incident of domestic violence to tell a representational tale of millions of women facing domestic violence, marital rape, and deeply embedded misogyny in India and the subcontinent.
With no notable big names from Bollywood, besides the talented Taapsee, and a host of other equally gifted performers, Thappad is a film that paves the way for women-centered narratives that question the male privilege. Thappad delves into the lives of different women and disturbs deeply-held notions of orthodox families and women’s roles therein.
Right from the introduction, Thappad captivates the audience and lets them know that it is taking up much more than a couple’s relationship. The introduction shots of all relevant characters in different settings, living different lives but eating the same orange candy (popsicles), gives a clear message that the film will surpass the ‘hero-heroine’ narrative and give everyone equal space to tell their stories. This shared burden of storytelling makes the film even more captivating.
With stellar acting by Taapsee and the supporting cast, Thappad is a sensible movie that discusses the dynamics of husband-wife relationships in orthodox South East Asian families. The film cleverly blames men for the toxic relationships they create but also the society and even women who have been submissive for generations to give men the privilege of treating them like commodities. Thappad questions the self-beliefs that enslave the housewives. What makes them give up their lives, dreams and comforts to create that ‘perfect household’? Why have generation after generation of women been teaching their young daughters to sacrifice themselves to save far-from-perfect conjugal relations?
After directing socially compelling movies like Mulk (2018) and Article 15 (2019), Director Sinha has put out another gem that doesn’t overly dramatize relationships and reactions and gives life lessons in all their subtlety.
Who should watch it?
The only problem with Thappad is its length of 2hrs 24min and the stretched second half. But the storytelling is still captivating and this is easily one of the most important movies Bollywood has produced in recent times. A must watch for its compelling storyline and visionary filmmaking.