Disclaimer :- This is not a review of the movie. This is the review of my experience of watching the movie. Spoilers ahead.
There was so much Thappad talk on Twitter for all its hype due to its OTT release. Some people were shook by it. Some people not really. But it created a necessary stir because of the topic talked about and after a friend’s suggestion, I decided to see for what its worth myself.
For reasons, when it comes to women centric movies which spoke to the audience on a more social context, I tend to get very nihilistic. In movies like these, I can perceive the complete essence of the movie only with the society and civilization’s reaction. The story would have been told in a very convincing manner and everything would have fallen in place inside a film but when it steps to the point beyond entertainment, we the audience are expected to ideate on what the film gave and induct it into the way we see the world. Sadly in India, all these jargon is forgotten when a person steps outside the cinema hall. A socially relevant film still lies as just a “film with a social message” because that’s the “trend” now. And how much ever the idea of women rights and the hardships of women is inclined into our minds with quality filmmaking, it never seems to have an effect on what is happening today. And with time, where we should be getting real stories of how these reel stories changed their lives, all that we are getting are new issues to wake up to and another movie genre to exploit.
These are all the things that were running in my mind parallelly when I was trying to find Thappad on Prime Video. But 2 hours later, I was trying to comprehend everything into words and write this because I didn’t want to take this movie for just another Lockdown timepass one. Imagine a magician in front of you. Performing a card trick where you expect him to identify the card that you chose because that’s what all magicians do. But instead, if he digs into the hat of an audience and pulls out a bunny from it which says what card you chose, you’ll know that this is not just another regular street magician. That was Thappad to me. I knew the trick but I didn’t expect the deception that came with it. With time into Indian Cinema and Bollywood, we’ve been forced to think in a certain way and have expectations with such movies even before the title card appears. With Thappad, it was about a legal battle on Domestic Violence. An issue that is under scrutiny for years but is never really talked about in mainstream cinema. And this lies in the middle of the constellation whereas we subconsciously jigsaw the other things. A very strong woman subdued and attacked by assholes in her life. The way in which the society critics at the life of the protagonist because she’s different from the world. And the film ends with her winning freedom via a public system and how males will be males, whatever happens, indirectly antagonising the entire gender. This is the stuff that we expect and has worked upside down in Bollywood. The best part of Thappad is that it didn’t try to break this idea. But it made us believe that the same pointers can be spread to the world with a hint of positivity. It’s the same buffet but with an unnaturally and surprisingly fresh breath of air.
The film was advertised on a single slap. The title of the movie was Thappad for fuck sake. The trailers said so about how Amritha was slapped and a divorce was underway. 30 minutes before the climax segment started I realised, the film had nothing to do with the slap. It talked about something much bigger than a single slap. Things about how to love when lost is an irreversible reaction. About the definition of an independent woman doesn’t necessarily mean that she fights alone. About the importance of family during times of self-crisis. About a man doing something morally wrong even though ethically it doesn’t make a difference and to my surprise, correcting himself. So many different things that made us think why hasn’t this already been told to us through this medium. Forget the idea of a legal battle, the film didn’t even go to court! The legal point of view was just another setup to introduce another woman of the film (The women of Thappad is a separate topic of discussion in itself.) Thappad for me was never about the slap. It was just the trigger that made Amritha realise the world she was a part of. A trigger for nothing but plot movement. The little things which came after the slap forms the film. Little things like how the “independent stable man” to the society is dependent on someone else for the smallest things. Little things like how a word of apology and the virtue of time is important in a relationship. The film acknowledged the fact that there are people among all of us who think they are the only person in their world, at the same time, didn’t entirely criminalize them for it and I’m honestly shook by the clarity of which it was presented. It never tried shove any of this into our throats for us to understand. Half of these didn’t even make its way into the dialogues. They were just sprinkled all over the screenplay for us to read between the lines.
The little things.
Another beautiful idea to ponder upon was how the characters were written. Amritha was the centre point of the movie. Yes. But never the lead. Surprised for a film which had a single face in all its promotional posters. The film didn’t forcefully hyperlink the characters. Everyone were in a different setup facing different problems of different weights. There was Amrita’s mother in law who was tussling with herself on whether to be a mother to her son or a self-respecting woman to her daughter in law. Her father who just realised that every woman was bound to make a sacrifice, even his own wife and took efforts to come to peace with it. The depth that arrived with the characters didn’t come through an explanation by a third party. It came through a single scene, a reaction or a conversation. Nethra was found to be a free spirited woman when she opened her car window and let the wind over her face. Rohit’s personality was understood with his first dialogue when he mentioned that he was the reason for his wife’s achievements. Sunita’s nature of relationship with her husband was decoded only with the way how he didn’t let her hold him on a cycle. I could go on and on and on but I’ll just be stating the obvious. Every single conflict inside and between the characters was milked in a way that the film always made sure the story laid within the people of film. It never looked like it was dealing with a social issue because it didn’t break a wall and try to preach us. It’s a very thin line. This was fiction and it ended as fiction. But fiction that satisfied the virtuously upright human being inside us.
And by the final act, it made sure every character got justice to who they played. Justice not according to the Indian Judicial System. Justice through the mistakes of life. The movie inadvertently advocated that if you realise that you are a cause of a problem that you face in your life, the problem is your punishment. And with life there’s always scope for betterment. The point of realisation is where you decide if you want to traverse in the same path again or learn from it and start afresh. Vikram knew where he went wrong with due time. And you can feel the change when he’s blurred in the background after the divorce, looking at Amrita drive her car home, something that he didn’t allow his wife to do so. Sunita was dancing in her own home to her own tunes without anyone’s permission. Without anyone expecting her to earn for the family. That’s what she wished for. This is what Thappad stands for me as. A case study that paves the way for the ideal world of tomorrow, where no person of this world is able enough to deprive another person’s wish to be happy and respected.
- Vishnu Aravind.