- Movie Name:Thappad
- Critics Rating: 4.5 / 5
- Release Date: Feb 28, 2020
- Director: Anubhav Sinha
- Genre: Drama
I might have watched the best movie of recent times. And it takes a lot to say/write this, when you have taken up reviewing films in an era that speaks of contrieved plots, and pointless drama over nothing. 'Thappad' is also one of the most intelligent movies of the decade, for it -- so subtly and poignantly -- takes on the 'Dabangg's and 'Kabir Singh's of the world, and pleads to do away with the poetic glory of "thappad" over "pyaar".
'Thappad' is also -- and I know I am going overboard with the adjectives -- one of the most layered movies of all time, for it adopts multiple lenses to convey a simple message of how patriarchy is so internalised in our societal system that one overlooks every action that they shouldn't. The irony is nobody knows why...
Be it your domestic help, or the high-end professional, or a middle-class homemaker who is jostling between her domesticity and ambition, a woman has always been conditioned to believe she is subservient to the man. It might have trickled down to the psyche of the common man because of the meaning of the word -- "PATI". It means "owner" -- so when you get married, your husband is not just your life partner, he is the owner. Toh "adjust karna padta hai..."
And director Anubhav Sinha doesn't mince words in saying this.
'Thappad', scripted by Sinha and Mrunmayee Lagoo, is filled with moments that will make you think, if not squirm in your seat. There's a mother who says "uska ghar woh hai", and there's the husband who goes to great lengths -- of even falsely claiming his wife had been an alcoholic and maniac depressive -- to prove how crying over only a "thappad" is stupidity. He doesn't think twice before apologising to his boss, but when it comes to his wife, he goes "agar aise hi patniyaan apne parents ke ghar chali gayi toh India ke aadhey logon ke divorce ho jaayengey."
There's a father who adds "aadhey se zyaada", and there's a brother who's concerned about his sister's life but not sanity.
The multiple lenses form the crux of the movie. A house help -- a victim of domestic abuse, a lawyer -- a victim of indifference and indignant behaviour, and a single mother -- a victim of "isne phirse nayi car leli... Yeh karti kya hai!"
Anubhav Sinha does a brilliant job in interweaving these elements together, and presenting a giant-sized mirror to the society.
Taapsee Pannu is brilliant -- though not effortlessly. In a few scenes, her effort shows. This is well compensated by a scene in the climactic sequence of the movie where her Amrita breaks down and breaks it down in front of her mother-in-law. The entire sequence is a sobfest. This is one of the best performances by Taapsee, and am glad she was chosen for the role. The core of 'Thappad' actualises when Taapsee says, "Haan eik hi thappad. Par nahin maar sakta..." There's a quiver in her voice, and a glint of tear in her eye... And there's a determination to fight for one's self-respect. You can go on and on about the scene, and there would be nothing that matches Taapsee's panache in it.
Pavail Gulati holds his own in front of Taapsee's stellar act. His Vikram is severely cold, filthily insensitive towards his wife, and deeply unlikeable. And Gulati's honesty in his portrayal adds to the "hate wave". This debut is to watch out for.
The supporting cast is equally stellar -- Tanvi Azmi as the mother-in-law, Ratna Pathak Shah as the mother, Kumud Mishra as the father, Ankur Rathee as the brother, Maya Sarao as the lawyer, Naila Grewal as the brother's fiancee and Geetika Vaidya as the domestic help are exceptionally cast. Dia Mirza as the single mother and Ram Kapoor as the defence lawyer are under-utilised, but they manage to shine nevertheless.
The screenplay of the movie is the ultimate winner -- for the narrative swiftly translates and transports from one scene and setting to another without much ado. There's a definitive ease with which the movie is shot and picturised that takes away the pain of watching more than one narrative in 141 minutes. Maybe because they tell you the same story -- of deep-rooted patriarchy, or maybe because it's Sinha's craft.
Sinha's brilliance is substantiated in a scene where Vikram is pressing frivolous charges on Amrita, who has decided to only play fair. Her only argument is she deserves respect and happiness. Amrita, in that scene, keeps looking at Vikram. Is this the same man she fell in love with? Only Sinha could have orchestrated it.
'Thappad', by that measure, is not just a film. It's a telling statement on how the society has trivialised the identity of a wife, and primarily, a woman. Why is it only when a woman is repaid for her dedication towards her husband with a slap on her face that she begins questioning her position in the family? Why not before? Just, why?
'Thappad', just like its protagonist, is also very respectful towards the male species, for it does not bash men. It does not become preachy. It just is. On the face. In your face.
And yes, the best scene is the slap sequence. The resounding drama that follows it, the gender politics that it unleashes, and the way it all questions the institution of marriage are what genius is made of.
Male entitlement -- often served on a platter to the men by the women -- is not new to either Indian society or cinema. The 141-minute rigmarole of 'Thappad' is -- for it hits you hard in your face, in your heart, in your mind....and everywhere else. It questions you. And answers those questions itself. Watch 'Thappad' -- just watch it -- with your family, with your husband, with your father...with the women in your family... Make them think, and cry; make them squirm in their seat.
Watch 'Thappad' -- for Taapsee Pannu, for Anubhav Sinha, for Pavail Gulati's debut, and to just cry at the package of irony the societal system is. And probably for having this internalised -- darr toh thappad se hi lagna chahiye... **Oohhhh! What an Anubhav!**
IndiaTVNews.com verdict: 4.5 stars (half-a-star extra, so that you GO AND WATCH)