Slapping Socialization of Violence and Gender Inequality
While questioning patriarchal insensitivities the movie nowhere appears misandrist, the script very well manages to show both black and white shades of a male personality in the movie.
Director: Anubhav Sinha
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Dia Mirza, Pavail Gulati, Ratna Pathak, Tanvi Azmi, Naila Grewal, Kumud Mishra, Maya Sarao, Manav Kaul.
Release: Feb 2020.
Duration: 2 hours 20 min.
‘To sirf ek thappad?’
The central question of the movie reflects how lightly our society reacts to socially accepted practice of violence. The movie while addressing one major incident poses a number of questions on marriage norms like: How far women and men are socialized with their relative limitations and liberties? Do women depend upon their husband for career success? How can an independent mother for that matter a divorced or widowed mother stay independent with dignity? Should a woman give away her individuality for the family or her dreams matter equally? How serious or shameful it is for a woman to get divorced?
The movie calls for the need to question even the smallest manifestation of violence be it a seemingly simple slap. The director beautifully begins with 5 interconnected stories running parallel throughout converging on the gender issue. The story mainly is about the lead couple Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) and Vikram (Pavail Gulati) about how their happy married life changed after the public humiliating slap in a family celebration and after she demands for justice.
The movie portrays lives of women at different ages, relations and social economic class as almost similar on the gender justice. Amrita the protagonist is an educated trained classical dancer who quits her career to perform all duties of a good daughter-in-law and a wife. Right from early morning tea to checking blood sugar level of her mother-in-law she works for almost entire day but apparently her job as a housewife is not only unpaid but also not worth the stress and tiredness in comparison with her husband. Her neighbor is an empowered single mother who rears her daughter with all luxuries and liberties to face Vikram’s comment ‘karti kya hai ye?’ as if she can’t work equally tirelessly as Vikram can. The maid too faces domestic violence from her drunken husband, here though both work and earn but still her being financially independent fails to bring equality among them. The confident empowered lawyer too isn’t living a dignified life. She struggles to prove that a women’s successful career need not to be dependent upon the established name of the husband.
Vikram out of frustration (though unintentional, despite being a loving husband and the instance being for the first time) finds easy to slap his wife among all others who came to calm him. The incident seems normal, acceptable or worth excusing to all except Amrita’s father, her brother’s girlfriend (Naila Grewal) and her neighbour (Dia Mirza) who understand her point of view. Subsequently, she objects to the act and demands justice, the movie is all about what all comes her way and thus manages to keep the audience curious till the end.
Her own mother and mother in law both plead to her to cooperate with her husband to reflect almost predictable dialogues in Indian families ‘shadi nibhani hoti hai, ye sab pati-patni mein hota rehta hai’ the lawyer too says ‘sirf ek thappad’ for filling a petition. This all shows how raising a voice against the wrong becomes difficult even for a well-off educated woman in Indian society.
The title of the movie is absolutely perfect as the story is centered on a thappad. The movie is an Indian family drama. Anubhav is known for directing movies on social issues and impacts. Though the issue isn’t new but he manages to show a different aspect of it. The music is good too especially the lyrics of the song ‘ek tukda dhoop’ are beautiful.
The initially appearing court drama settles at an emotional dialogue exchange between her and her mother in law, between her father and mother, between her brother and his girlfriend. Settling it where it began from rather than in the legal battle.
While questioning patriarchal insensitivities the movie nowhere appears misandrist, the script very well manages to show both black and white shades of a male personality in the movie. While there were men like Vikram, there were the neighbour’s late husband and Amrita’s father to counter too.
Taapsee brilliantly plays the transition in attitude and life of a housewife after an incident. She was probably the best actress for the role after her strong characters in Pink and Mulk, the later yet again directed by Anubhav. Vikram (Gulati) too fits perfect as the ambitious civilized but patriarchal man, being new too he equally attracts the audience after Taapsee. The casting of two veteran dynamic actors Kumud Mishra and Ratna Pathak Shah for Amrita’s typical middle class parents binds the audience to the storyline. The maid (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) was yet another impactful character throughout the story. Rest of other characters including Maya Sarao, Manav Kaul, Siddhant Karnick, Tanvi Azmi and Ram Kapoor though more popular were overshadowed by the former few of them and almost rendered insignificant. New faces in the movie could attract audience more to the story than the actor.
The last dialogue spoken by Vikram becomes the answer to the title of the movie. Answers what after thappad? The movie is about social conditioning and finds the solution right at the root cause. i.e conditioning rather than court. Movies with a female lead, usually, as the trend shows, fail to rule the box office and this will sadly again remain a limitation.
The author is a research scholar in CSSEIP, BHU and is an intern at Academics4nation.