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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Is a slap cause enough to end a seemingly perfect and idyllic relationship between a man and a woman? That's the insidious question director Anubhav Sinha throws at you in Bollywood drama Thappad. Starring Taapsee Pannu as a 'happily married' woman Amrita, who is forced to reevaluate her marriage when her husband Vikram (newcomer Pavail Gulati in a perfectly cast role) slaps her in front of their houseguests, the film takes a look at the silent conditioning that women often undergo in society.
It confronts and lays bare, often in an uncomfortable manner, the misogyny that exists within families when it comes to a man-woman relationship.
While Amrita and Vikram's crumbling marriage is central to the movie, Sinha, cleverly infuses the plot with a whole lot of delicate layers, by playing out 5-6 other stories side-by-side. In contrast to the upper middle class Delhi household, you have Amrita's maid, Sunita who is regularly beaten up by her drunkard husband. Then you have the complex relationship between Amrita's lawyer, Netra (superb casting of Maya Sarayo) and her husband, award winning journalist Rohit Jaisingh (Manav Kaul in a short but compelling role).
It's to Sinha's credit as a writer that the movie at no point degenerates into male bashing, even as it makes a huge cause for women's right to happiness. There can be no greater evidence of this than in the characterisation of Gulati who is portrayed as a seemingly perfect, career-driven man with a deep-rooted sense of entitlement, that is played out so subtly, that it doesn't strike you till the very end.
The writing is so brilliant that along with a host of other characters you tend to question why so much fuss is being made about a 'slap'. But it is all tied up so beautifully in the conversation between Amrita and her mother-in-law (Tanvi Azmi, in an understated role) towards the end of the movie that you begin to understand her stance and applaud this woman for being so courageous to take on the whole world.
Kumud Sharma, who plays Amrita's father is another standout character and his take on how "doing the right thing doesn't always end in happiness" strikes deep.
The movie's background score can get overpowering at times, taking away our focus from the drama being played out on the screen. And I personally felt that Thappad has done a disservice to many women who choose to remain at home for their own reasons and not necessarily because they are sacrificing their lives for the men in the family.
Thappad as a whole gives you an insight into the casual sexism that exists within society in general and relationships in particular. There's no one-size-fits-all philosophy that is flogged in the movie, instead Sinha delivers a brilliant take on one woman's courageous journey to fight for her self-respect and happiness in a world which seems bent on asking her to forgive, forget and move on.
Thappad, in the end is NOT a movie about domestic violence - it is an uncomfortable journey into a woman's heart and emotions to learn why she stands up for herself when confronted with a slap. A must-watch for those who enjoy strong female-driven stories, backed by excellent acting.
Director: Anubhav Sinha
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Pavail Gulati, Kumud Mishra, Tanvi Azmi, Ratna Pathak Shah, Dia Mirza, Manav Kaul, Ram Kapoor
Rating: 4 out of 5
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