Thappad – Kyun nahi maar sakta?

I warn you – don’t watch Thappad.

Don’t watch it because it brings out intimate partner violence out in the open.

Don’t watch it because it questions the deep-rooted patriarchy which is so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even see what is wrong with ‘bas ek thappad’.

Don’t watch it because it makes you realise that the patriarchy is not just ingrained in men, it has been justified by women for generations.

Don’t watch it because it makes you realise the entitled behaviour which the men have which makes them feel it is ok to treat a woman as their property.

Don’t watch it because it will trigger your thoughts on all that might be wrong around you too probably.

If you still have the guts, I dare you – watch Thappad. Because it delivers a tight slap on the face of chauvinism and bigotry.

The movie starts with showing domestic violence being a norm in lower-class of the society. You think ‘Inn mein toh ye common hai.’ The chirpy maid who loves to dance to Dance India Dance is regularly subject to domestic violence but never leaves. Kyunki kahin usne gusse mein aa kar ghar ki kundi band kar li, toh mein kahan jaungi? How men abuse this dependency!

It proceeds to show a devoted housewife, Amruta (Taapsee Pannu), which could be anyone – you, me or your neighbour, who has quit her career to take care of her family. Right from waking her husband up in the morning to making tea just as he likes it to stuffing paratha into his mouth, she plays the part of good Indian housewife really well.

All is well till her husband Vikram delivers one tight slap across her face in a fit of stress-filled rage. The reaction to this is stoic silence – the father is deeply pained (the only one apparently). The mother goes to say ‘hota hai couples ke beech mein. Matured bache hain, solve kar lenge’. Mother – in –law goes to pretend as if nothing happened and asks whether her son slept ok next morning (the fact that daughter-in-law didn’t is absolutely ignored). The brother tries to tell her to deal with it and the husband? He is more concerned about ‘log kya soch rahe honge mere bare main’.

No one realises what the victim is going through – the hurt, the pain, the sleepless nights, the loss of respect for self and the realisation how broken and one-sided her marriage is. This one slap brings forward all the times when she has ignored her desires and given her husband and his family a priority. Years of hurt due to typical chauvinistic behaviour like him telling that she should first learn to make proper parathas before she learns driving, how she should understand what he is going through, how it is just ‘one slap’ and she should learn to move on, is opened up due to this one slap.

Thus starts the process of the victim standing up for herself. She goes on to file a divorce when her husband serves her legal notice to bring her home. The best part of the movie is that it shows very realistic scenarios. This is how most girls have been brought up – to believe that ghar zyada zaroori hai aur aurat ko thoda sehna seekhna chahiye. Woman is made out to be ones bearing the burden of keeping the family together while the man can go on to behave like an entitled idiot who can react the way he wants to. The parallel narratives show how women of different classes and different generations have given up on their dreams, careers, health, happiness, respect – just to keep the false notion of marriage together.

And as Taapse puts it, the girl in college just wanted to be respected and happy. And not getting either makes her fall out of love.

The feminists might go on to argue that why is Taapse’s character so meek and submissive. Why doesn’t she walk out the moment she is slapped? Why does she still return to take care of the mother-in-law – the same one who did not even asks her to come back to the party, moments after she was slapped? Why does she attend the Puja organised at home for the would-be grandchild (this one made me barf too)? But the fact is this is how most Indian girls have been brought up and societal conditioning is tough to change. We still value families and respect the elders – even at the cost of swallowing our own pride.

The scene where Taapse says that she will come back to visit after the puja but she will never forgive everyone for never asking how she was had me crying buckets.

With power-packed performances by each of the characters, this is one of the best movies made in recent times (and yes, it is better than Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhaan. And no, she is not the lady Ayushman Khurana).

Take a bow Anubhav Sinha and Taapsee Pannu. You just raised the bar way up high!

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