Thappad, directed by Anubhav Sinha, is about one event. A husband slaps his wife in a fit. Big deal, right? “Move on” is what most people in India would say. After all, if it’s the mental conditioning of the majority of women in our country that tells them to swallow their pride and keep pretending to ‘save’ their marriage, even when that marriage has cracks deep within it. It is about an important social message that takes a look at an event that many of us would have experienced first-hand in our lives, and examines it thoroughly. From its social ramifications to the emotional turmoil that follows both man and wife, Thappad takes a brilliant look at both sides in the aftermath of one such event.
Taapsee Pannu plays Amrita, a loving housewife busy enough in the monotony of her life to not complain about it. Her husband Vikram (Pavail Gulati) is similarly busy in his own professional life, seemingly too self-indulgent in his own right. Their marriage appears to be a perfect one. She rushes to feed him breakfast, while he rushes to the office while on a call. It seems typical, right? Well, just hold on to it. This is the routine of their lives. A seemingly mindless routine that no one complains about, and accepts it the way it is. That is of course, before the titular Thappad (slap).
In one intimate, yet an explosive moment, everything changes. I won’t get into many details about how the event comes to be, as I’d rather you find that out yourself when you’re in the theater. But let me just set up the scene in the most basic manner: There’s a party. Guests are all over. The husband is mildly drunk and mad at a workplace incident, and the wife is trying to reign him in. WHACK! In one swift movement of his hand, Vikram has turned Amrita’s world around. The sad part? He doesn’t realize it. Of course, this is just the inciting incident after which a lot of things follow, but just as Anubhav Sinha has intended in his filmmaking style, it’s important to set up the moment meticulously.
I should also add that it’s not just this couple that film and its events followed. Sinha and co-writer Mrunmayee Lagoo have added a bunch of supporting characters whose lives are impacted directly by this event. Whether it be Dia Mirza’s character (a widow) or Geetika Vidya Ohlyan’s breakout role as the housemaid, there are enough characters who’re struggling with their own relationships. Other actors like Ratna Pathak, Tanvi Azmi and Kumud Mishra provide ample emotional support for both of our protagonists.
Before I get to Taapsee, I have to mention Pavail Gulati’s excellent performance in his first lead performance in a feature. While you’ve probably seen him before in Kalank and Made in Heaven, it’s in Thappad that he’s truly shown his range. Playing the husband who’s almost an antagonist isn’t an easy role, and Gulati has managed to deliver a performance as natural as possible.
Taapsee Pannu is of course as good here as she has been in her other films. It’s quite a change of pace to see her play a more subdued character than say compared to Shabana. With this film, she continues her streak of acting in bold films which aren’t just made for commercial entertainment but has something relevant to say. From playing an obliviously happy wife to someone who takes a stand against the views of men, women, and others in light of her situation,
Anubhav Sinha has crafted a film that takes a look into the psyche of society and how it looks upon the relationship between a married couple. And he has done it effortlessly. The film’s side plots run in tandem with the main conflict and add their own unique perspective on the situation at hand.