Thappad, a wake up call..!

By Aditya in Reviews » Movie Reviews
Updated 10:16 IST Mar 07, 2020

Views » 909 | 7 min read

Honestly I am very judgmental about people bringing young kids in cinema halls to watch mature content. I do understand that the “parental guidance” category exists where adults are supposed to steer their “impressionable young adults” such that they understand the complexities. But here I was surrounded by adults who themselves were clueless about the gravity of the narrative?

On my left were three middle aged men who were initially amused, then a bit shocked but who eventually went silent. One of them kept exhaling long breaths as if exhausted with what he saw. At least these people had the sensitivity to digest what they saw, something that must be difficult to process given the decades of conditioning they must have gone through. Maybe they were watching from the parent’s perspective.

Behind me was an all-girl group. They kept on chatting throughout the film and passed comments on every scene. I looked behind a couple of times giving them an irritated look but they had this weird sense of entitlement and didn’t give a beep about my irritation. Maybe they were right, I should have focused on the film rather than their comments. Besides I could always watch it again on a streaming service in private. Cinema hall is a public place after all.

Couple of rows back on my right was a group of men. I was glad that they were in the hall, at least some part of the messaging would sink in and leave an impact on their choices, I thought. By the end of the movie, I was grossly disappointed. The less I speak about their behavior the better. It is sufficient to say that we still have a long long way to go before our society has some semblance of equality.

And then a couple of rows in the front, slightly on my right was the “family”. Two couples and four kids, the youngest kid being a toddler who refused to sleep while the eldest, a young lady in her early teen. Her discomfort and anxiety was clearly palpable as she kept on twisting and turning in the seat, unable to simmer a thousand questions popping up in her mind, while her parents happily munched on the big tub of popcorn.

Oh and then there was me, occupying seat C4. Watching the story unfold, trying to relate with what I saw and feeling all the emotions one can feel; hurt, sad, angry and above all confused with the predicament. I will share the confusion a little later.

Sorry for the long prelude, it is necessary because I am wondering if we adults are adult enough to process what Thappad attempts to share. I walked out of the hall wanting to have a conversation with my friends. These were some of the replies I received, one of them said, “ha ha, didn’t you sleep through the film?”, another said, “Taapsee is hot AF” and yet another said, “I wasn’t aware that such film was released”. So here I am sharing what I felt with you since most of those who I know didn’t give a …

One thing I can guarantee; you will find your reflection in the movie, if not as a whole, definitely in parts. You will see yourself in Vikram the self-centered husband and an ambitious employee. He isn’t evil so to speak, but is simply unaware of what he does and how it affects the people around him. Or you will find yourself in Amrita, a gentle housewife who finds joy in making tea and watching her husband happy and climbing the ladder of success. If not in the lead pair, you will definitely find bits and pieces of who you are scattered in the other characters.

This is easily the best ensemble support cast I have seen in a long time. This is what you get when seasoned artists sink their teeth in well drafted characters. Kumud Mishra as the father and Ratna Pathak Shah as the mother, a couple who are caught between their social conditioning and their individual beliefs. Watch the two interact and you will understand the dilemma of the previous generation. Tanvi Azmi as the mother in law, who suffers the weight of patriarchal injustice herself but it takes a while for her to understand that she unknowingly passes on the same to her daughter in law.

Then the three women, Maya Sarao as the lawyer, who fights for Amrita and while doing so fights for her own dignity. Dia Mirza as the neighbor and a successful single mother who is a silent pillar of support to Amrita. And a terrific Geetika Vidya as the maid who is routinely abused through the night but smiles through the day. These three women more or less cover the entire socio-economic spectrum. All of them facing injustice in their own way, as if it is the norm.        

Even the tertiary characters are well etched, the boss, the colleague the sibling, the friend, the daughter. All of them add meat to the narrative, which brings me to the writing. I kept on questioning if it was too biased, if men are portrayed unfairly, what about the other side? Well there isn’t any other side, whatever it is, we practically live it every day. “This” is the other side and it is time we show the courage to accept it. It is a brilliant screenplay, not once indulging in sensationalism, balancing the characters, their weightage and their impact to the hilt. The spacing, ensures that the film keeps you invested all the time and when it ends, you are left with little choice but to nod and agree and introspect. Kudos to Anbhav Sinha for such deft handling of the subject and crafting layers after layers of human behavior in a seamless manner.

Taapsee Pannu as Amrita is the lady you see every day, might be in your wife, or sister or cousin or friend or neighbor or colleague. Taapsee is near perfect and deserves every bit of applause. Her eyes are a treat to watch, I couldn’t stop myself from choking when she speaks her heart out with her mother in law. Watch her slow interview with Neelesh Mishra on YouTube and you will get an insight to her method.

That brings me to my confusion. Pavail Gulati flawlessly portrays the narcissistic man, unaware of his behavior. Vikram is all of us. But is he the antagonist?

He truly believes that he is not the villain, in fact he believes that he is a nice hard working family man. He believes that he has been wronged, first at his workplace and then at home. He believes that he was justified to react the way he did and even if he acknowledges that he went too far, he still believes that the reaction from his wife is not justified. He is unable to comprehend the sudden change. Till yesterday his wife showered him with love and attention, she almost worshiped him and today she says, she does not love him anymore. How is that possible? How can one small(?!) incident bring out such a huge shift? What did he do to deserve this?

First of all, one incident didn’t change the chemistry, it happened over time, subconsciously, slowly, eventually creeping up to the tipping point, the Thappad just offered the final push. And yet Vikram is not the villain, our society is, we have been taught to believe that his perspective is correct. Though that does not absolve Vikram from his crime, he did slap, didn’t he? So he has to accept the consequences. If Amrita abandons him, then there is nothing one can do about it. Vikram simply has to face it and evolve. Like he promises to when he says he will try to win her over once again, if she allows.

Whether she allows the resurection, whether he will succeed in his developmental arc, whether he will be rewarded for his effort is something time will tell. For now, Vikram has to try and along with him all of us.



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Jyoti 11-Mar-2020 11:12

Very well written!

Aditya 22-Mar-2020 22:11

Thank you Jyotiji

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