Bollywood movie review: Thappad

The movie, about an Indian housewife divorcing her husband over a slap, becomes relevant in a society that boasts of having an increase in the number of independent strong married women and yet, teaches them to stay in abusive marriages where they have no respect.

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Poster of the movie Thappad. Source: Wikipedia

THERE are so many moments and dialogues that stand out in the movie Thappad that tackles an awkward subject in the context of marriage in India.

Awkward, because it cuts across all classes in our society (the poorest of the poor, the richest of the rich and of course, our always in the middle — middle class!)

In a country that watches a Kabir Singh and celebrates it in all its glory, Thappad comes as a literal slap for many of those who would otherwise conveniently brush the topic under the carpet. And if that offends you, well why should it? It’s just one literal slap 🤷🏻‍♀️

More than anything else, the movie just makes you self-conscious — as a mother, as a daughter, as a husband, as a father, as a brother, as a relative or let me just say as any bystander who has witnessed this kind of abuse around him/her.

One scene that I would really like to talk about in detail is when Amrita (the protagonist Taapsee Pannu’s name in the movie) asks her father if she’s doing the right thing or not (by divorcing her husband over one slap).

What he says next had so many layers.

  • “Sahi ya galat ka pata to decision lene ke baad hi chalta hai”

(You get to know whether your decision is right or not only after taking that decision)

  • “Dil se awaaz aa rahi hai?” Ekdum andar se?
  • “Kabhi kabhi sahi decision ka result happy nahi hota”
  • “Ye teri zidd to nahi hai na?”

The last one took me back to times when women around me have been labeled as “ziddi” and “arrogant” for choosing to end their marriages, instead of fighting it out and staying.

Yes, in India, a married woman is still synonymous with “the one who can endure.”

To put it in some context, they’ve been told it’s easier for women to feel arrogant and just leave a relationship on a whim these days (as they don’t have to depend on their husbands for money anymore) than work on it and stay.

I’ve also, to a certain extent, agreed to this when I saw some of the women around me being arrogant about their petty situations/fights (No physical abuse involved in them) and taking the easy way out. But then, what’s petty for me might not be petty for someone else right?

So when Amrita replies in the negative to the “zidd” question, it is her body language and the way her character has been shaped from the very first scene, that I know she’s an honest woman who has absolutely thought it through. She’s not doing it on a whim.

That I have to believe her and not look for/create a counter argument to make her stay in that marriage.

I don’t question her as a woman at all. I have to mention this because I’ve actually talked to some women who did believe that she was wrong in “dragging” the incident and seeking separation/divorce for “just a slap.”

There’s also another important message for women in this scene.

The message is that the extent to which a person feels disrespected in a relationship decides whether it’s time to end it or not. It could be a slap, a hurtful sentence or a reckless act.

Amrita sums it up so simply and beautifully in another scene when she says that the slap took her back to her college days, when all she wanted was respect and happiness.

Isn’t that what we all aspire for? In our relationships?

In almost all our relationships? Even more than love? And when we don’t get it, we give up.

And yes, respect has to be earned too.

And that’s what the initial part of the movie is about.

What might seem like simple, menial work (of taking care of a house) to some, is actually what needs to be respected more in a marriage.

It’s disheartening that even today, it’s mostly women who end up staying back home as the men chase their dreams and yet, today, for a lot of women, it is no more a forceful choice.

But as Amrita says, she was at fault too. Yes women are at fault too, when they let the men take over as the center of their lives. Amrita was at fault because she let her husband believe that he’ll be able to get away with that slap, and he did believe it for the longest time.

Amrita lost her own identity while participating in her husband’s dream chasing.

So what’s the message here? Do not let your own dreams gather dust. Easier said than done right? If you’ve seen Kangana Ranaut’s Panga, you will know what I mean and how a woman needs a support system so that she CAN chase her dreams even if she gets too busy in her married life.

Here’s another reminder.

Even when that dream means “being the best housewife in the world,” do NOT let that college girl die inside of you.

It’s strange how I could conjure up images of two strong married women in my mind, both dear friends, one with a full time job and a child, not getting her share of respect in the house and another, a stay-at-home-mother with three kids, who commands respect wherever she goes!

Both are creating value inside and outside and yet, there’s something that’s not right with one of them.

When Amrita says “I am not being able to respect myself,” I think she sums it up for so many of us who at times, do feel that in a relationship.

Is that the time to leave?

Well that’s when we need to ask ourselves, is it that?

Or am I being “ziddi?” here.

One last thing before I leave, let’s reiterate the fact that nobody, NOBODY has the right to get physical, under any circumstances in a relationship.

It’s 2020 and mothers need to stop telling their daughters that it’s ok to be slapped around. It’s high time, really. The onus is on us, all of us who’re part of the Great Indian Marriage.

I would love to discuss your feedback and comments on this one. Let’s talk!

Written by

Writer. Buddhist. Feminist. Looking for freelance projects.

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