Thappad Movie Review - A restrained, rousing drama about male ego and women's liberation
Anubhav Sinha's Thappad not only has a fiery Taapsee Pannu but a lot of other ferocious female characters that power the voice of this restrained and rousing drama.
Director: Anubhav Sinha
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Ram Kapoor
In a recent interview, Anubhav Sinha was brave enough to admit he made films in the past for commercial prospects. Every filmmaker does that. But ever since he made Mulk in 2018, there was a much-needed and much-surprising change in his style of narrating stories. And with Article 15, it was clear he now wanted to gaze more at his characters than his canvas.
And with Thappad, he continues with his newly found voice as a filmmaker. Every film tells us something about the maker that has helmed it, but it's hard to tell that the director who made these aforementioned films also made Cash, Dus, and Ra. One once upon a time. It's hard to tell which other filmmaker went through such a major metamorphosis.
Check out the trailer of Thappad:
Coming back to his latest piece of work, the trailer has pretty much given away what the tale is about. It's the story of a woman who has been publicly slapped by her husband, and she won't forget or forgive. She says she wants to feel happy when she says she's happy. For others, it's just a slap, for her, it isn't. But for the first 30 minutes, we see her marital life and it's mirth and monotony. This woman is Amrita, played by the always reliable Taapsee Pannu.
Sinha stages multiple montages of her daily routine, she makes tea for her husband, Vikram (Pavail Gulati), checks her mother-in-law's (Tanvi Azmi) blood-pressure, and teaches dance to Dia Mirza's daughter. She wanted to have a life of her own, but didn't. In fact, all the female characters in this film curbed their freedom and suppressed their dreams for their domesticity. On the surface, their lives seem perfect, deep beneath, they all are throbbing.
Thappad not only highlights the much-deserving spiritedness of women-hood, but also takes a sharp eye on fragile male egos. Vikram is unable to come to terms with his shattered dreams, he conveniently forgets to apologize for a slap, which is just a slap for everyone around him and his wife. The only one who stands by Amrita is her father, Kumud Mishra, who once again injects warmth into an immensely endearing and affectionate character.
But he isn't perfect either. His wife, the lovely Ratna Pathak Shah, wanted to be a singer but made a heartbreaking sacrifice to build a family. She says she adjusted, her daughter has to adjust as well. Such is the plight of women in this film that even Amrita's lawyer, played by Maya Sarao, dismisses her plea as far-fetched. Maya's performance is one of the most gripping aspects of this drama, all her achievements are reduced to nothing but privilege by her chauvinistic husband, Manav Kaul. It's agonizing but also a brutal truth, when a woman's triumph is hard to digest for a man's self-conceit.
Despite such scathing scenarios, Sinha never allows the people in this film to have melodramatic meltdowns. Their silences and gazes are enough to make us understand they are broken and bruised. In one of the film's best scenes, Pannu asks Tanvi Azmi to take care of herself and says she'll keep visiting her, but also criticises her for not standing by her when she needed someone the most. She says she can never forgive her for what they did.
But unlike other Bollywood movies with such pompous characters, Thappad gives room for repentance to this man. Vikram finally admits he messed up and will try everything to win the lady he hurt back. The scene comes after the film has pretty much conveyed everything it wanted to, when all the conflicts have been resolved, and when we know the end may not be happy, but right.
For some, this drama may be restrained, for some, snail-paced, but it was important to have a film that raises a voice against a man's unethical freedom, it was important to have a film that has the audacity to project a woman who refuses to accept or adjust to any sort of physical abuse. And it was also important to make a film where the slap may have been for the woman, but it indirectly hints towards all those who think misogyny in movies is fine. No, we need better heroes!
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