Thappad: Of Un-Erupted Lavas In A Broken Patriarchal System.
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
“Women are always the canvas but not the colour”
On a sunny college afternoon, my friends and I decided to watch Thappad,a few days after it had released. I did not go in with the expectation of being as impressed as I was after coming out of the theatre.
Thappad is an extremely important movie of our times. The movie shows us the complexities of binary gender roles in marriage and the plight of systematic patriarchy through the lens of various women of different strata of society. Amrita( Tapasee Pannu), an ambitious and jolly upper middle class homemaker of a Delhi household is the main protagonist who does not realize the way the society has wronged her until she's compelled to after an incident of abuse. Sunita (Geetika Vidhya), a household help in Amrita's home and a constant victim of domestic violence, navigates through life with the little joys in it like watching dance shows on cable. She is fierce and a reminder of the unheard atrocities of the lower class that women face every day. Sulekha Sabharwal (Tanvi Azmi) and Sandhya Sandhu (Ratna Pathak Shah), the mothers of the protaganists are the kind of mothers majority of us are used to seeing. They are conditioned to believe that women hold families together and that in order to keep the household happy, they must sacrifice. It is seen that even in the most progressive of households, women are equally responsible for perpetrating internal misogyny and teaching daughters that their ultimate goal is to marry, sacrifice their own ambitions and put their husband's family always first.
Netra Jaisingh(Maya Sarao), a successful lawyer by profession and married to an extremely renowned journalist, is unhappy and feels constantly undermined by her egoistic husband who at no point fails to take credit or remind her that she owes all her success to him. A disgruntled and frustrated Netra chooses to remain in that marriage because that's what women are conditioned to do. Shivani(Dia Mirza), a breath of fresh air in the chaotic settings of the movie, is Amrita's neighbour and a widow. She is not shown to have a toxic relation or a history of ill-treatment by her husband and is a rather happy and content woman living with her 13y/o daughter. She chooses to believe that chivalry is not dead and that good men like her husband exist. A character that shines through is Sachin Sandhu, Amrita's father. A wholesome Hindi professor and a dutiful husband, Sachin(Kumud Mishra), is apalled to find that her daughter has been slapped by her husband. Unlike the popular trope of abandoning daughters when something goes wrong in the marriage, he actually supports and motivates his daughter to stay strong and not put her guard down.
Amrita, from the beginning of the movie is seen to be content and enjoying the mundane domesticity and monotony of being a homemaker. Her routine and the sheer joy with which she performs it day in day out is shown very intentionally to give the sense of normalcy and an assumed feeling of a happy household to the viewers. Her husband, Vikram (Palaiv Gulati) is the archetype of an Indian alpha male. The director and writer (Anubhav Sinha) very well knew how to establish Vikram as a character for it to resonate and be relatable to all the Indian audience members. He, from the first scene is shown to be an entitled man-baby, completely dependent on his wife for all the informal daily tasks of his life from waking up to breakfast to packing lunch and even handing the coffee to be taken on the road to the office. This man is not unknown to any Indian woman.
The scenes in this movie are so ordinary and regular but also a hard hitting reminder of all the things we are served on a platter by the women in our lives. Amrita, at no point is seen to be questioning her position or value in either her husband's life or the household until a teensy bit drunk and agitated Vikram slaps her. The viewers are made to believe that this one slap by Vikram came out of a place of unintentional and misplaced anger. The story takes off from there and moves to a stretched out but important second half. A rattled Amrita is shaken to her core as she begins to introspect her role and value in the household after that one slap and examines her relationship with her husband. In one of the many powerful moments in this movie, Amrita says that all she wanted from all her relationships and life is respect and happiness and the slap unravelled that her guard had been trampled on and she had been taken granted for. That was not acceptable to her. Anubhav Sinha and Mrunmayee Lagoo (Co-Writer) have very effectively shown the realities of a very broken system. Thappad is a social commentary on how men even though equal victims of patriarchy, benefit from it most of the times.
This movie is uncomfortable to watch because the fact remains that men are served by women at all points in their life either in the form of an overtly loving mother pampering him all through his childhood and more or his wife being compelled to give in to the very same system. The movie does not demonize men but simply highlights how they are conditioned to believe that a husband’s role is superior and that a husband can be forgiven come what may. It highlights that women are more than their roles in families. Suchitra Tyagi rightly said that this movie explores themes like the loneliness of ageing mothers, the gradual degradation of relationships due to misplaced priorities and infantilizing of adult off-springs. Parents need to re-examine the way they raise their children. The conflict is that of ideologies and existing social norms. Daughters should not be made to believe that their life exists in two parts and those parts are pre-marriage and post-marriage. The prudent and liberal parents should not take pride in the fact that they give basic autonomy to their daughters which rightfully should be given anyway. We collectively need to realize that the onus of keeping the family happy and functioning should not only be that of women. In a society where marriage as an institution is celebrated so much, the norms and roles need to be redefined radically. In the light of the uproar in feminist voices and an equal amount of rise in the hate towards these voices, it’s important to understand that women exist as individuals and that each voice matters. The feminist movement cannot be derailed by a few rotten apples and that there is still a long way to go.
This movie is the need of the hour and deserves more recognition and appreciation.