Thappad Movie Review: A Flawed Relationship in a Flawless Film
Movie Reviews

Thappad Movie Review: A Flawed Relationship in a Flawless Film

Like director Anubhav Sinha’s last two monumental works Mulk and Article 15, Thappad tears at the hypocrisy of the middle class to show how pathetically short we fall as a collective nation when it comes to basic human rights even within the four walls of private homes.

  • Movie Name Thappad
  • Director Anubhav Sinha
  • Actor Taapsee Pannu, Pavail Gulati, Maya Sarao, Geetika Vidya, Kumud Mishra, Ratna Pathak Shah, Tanve Azmi, Naila Grewal
  • Rating
  • Rating 4/5 Stars

Let’s face it. Damaged humanism, fractured emotions and flawed relationships are the crux of Great Cinema.  If there was no Auschwitz there would be no Schindler’s List. If Madhubala had not died so young would we still think her as being so unattainable? And if  Romeo and Juliet had lived happily ever after would  Shakespeare’s play have become a timeless classic?

Thappad is a flawless film on a fractured marriage. It is one of the most important Indian films in recent times. Like director Anubhav Sinha’s last two monumental works Mulk and Article 15, Thappad tears at the hypocrisy of the middle class to show how pathetically short we fall as a  collective nation when it comes to basic human rights even within the four walls of private homes.

Thappad Movie Review: A Flawed Relationship in a Flawless Film

The issue in Thappad is ostensibly solvable. A well-settled housewife Amruita (Taapsee Pannu, in her best yet)  from an upper-middle-class Delhi family takes a  slap from her husband very personally. The husband, the poor guy, is bewildered by what he sees as her over-reactions.

“Ek thappad hi to tha!” Amrita’s husband Vikram keeps mumbling in rote, driving in the point of how monstrously organically entitled we men in our country have become. Driven by the dearth of reality checks, the rules that regulate and normalize male dominance have become acceptable behaviour in even the more enlightened sections of our creaky social set-up.

Thappad Movie Review: A Flawed Relationship in a Flawless Film

Anubhav Sinha has a problem with that. Layer by layer,  he peels off the veneer of decency that glues a majority of marriages together, finally putting the men in the plot in a no-win situation. Even the sole seemingly liberal husband, played by the ever-dependable Kumud Mishra, has to sit in wide-eyed astonishment as his wife (Ratna Pathak Shah, slightly over-the-top) reminds him that she sacrificed her singing career for the sake of the family.

Who knows, we lost another Lata Mangeshkar?

Thappad Movie Review: A Flawed Relationship in a Flawless Film

In spite of the screenplay’s mischievous tendency to put all the men in the dock (even the lovely Dia Mirza’s husband is made to feel guilty from the grave), Thappad is an unflinchingly hard-hitting look at the lives of diverse women who are allotted portions of dignity as dictated by their spouses. She can be a high-profile high-flying lawyer as played by the imposingly impressive Maya Sarao. Or an economically challenged house-help played with smashing persuasiveness by Geetika Vidya whose drunken husband slaps her around for drunken entertainment…Each woman in  Anubhav Sinha’s scheme of creativity is a masterly study of grace under pressure.

While every actor, male or female, sinks into character with intuitive dedication, special mention must be made of Pavail Gulati as the slapper-husband who brings a great deal of relatable conflict to his part, imbuing his unplanned dirty deed with a kind of strange inevitability. Other male actors who make the best of a thankless job are Kumud Mishra and Ram  Kumar who incidentally is the only male without spousal guilt (though I am sure he has a  wounded wife somewhere away from this Sinha’s scintillating script’s penetrating gaze).

Thappad Movie Review: A Flawed Relationship in a Flawless Film

Make no mistake about it. Thappad belongs to the ladies: Geetika Vidya, Maya Sarao (her husband’s ill-etched role is a minor aberration), Tanvi Azmi and above all Taapsee Pannu who brings to her hurt wife’s role a  heroic dignity and a distance poignancy that distil themselves in a performance of screaming silences. I  dare any other contemporary actress to equal the sheer persuasive power of Taapsee’s performance. Her lengthy monologue with her screen-Saas (Tanvi Azmi) where she confesses to why she feels like a failure as woman wife and individual,  will be played at awards functions in the nominations show-reel.

The triumph of  Thappad is also the triumph of tonal perfection. Soumik Mukerjee’s cinematography, as well as  Mangesh Dhakde’s background score, create a distinct mood for each of the women and their episodic excursion from Victim to  Survivor to Hero. The distant banshee of the shehnai in the background serves as a mocking reminder of the marital vows and their subversion in contemporary times.

Thappad Movie Review: A Flawed Relationship in a Flawless Film

Thappad can either be seen as a powerful parable of women’s empowerment or a scathing ironic indictment of the way that empowerment is subverted. The writing is so sharp it cuts open our collective perception of what cinema about marital imbalance should be. This is Anubhav Sinha’s third masterpiece in a row,  and the best yet. I  can’t wait to see where he goes next.

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