Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) is an ‘adarsh patni’ who begins her day by serving tea to her hubby and then escorting him to his car to hand over his wallet and packed lunch, as he zooms off his car to earn a living. She’s also an ‘adarsh bahu’ who is supposed to check her mother-in-law’s blood sugar levels and supervise the kitchen. In between her daily routine, she squeezes out some time to enjoy a cup of herbs-infused black tea and teach classical dance to her neighbour’s daughter.
One day, Amrita’s husband Vikram (Pavail Gulati) who is on the cusp of a big promotion at office, throws a party at their house. Things go ugly when he misdirects his rage over a sudden turn-of-events and ends up slapping his wife in front of all the guests.
The public humiliation shatters Amrita. Further, when the ‘fateful slap’ is brushed off as ‘ek thappad hi toh hai’, she decides to stand up for her shattered pride by choosing to walk out of her ‘loveless’ marriage.
To offer a broader prospective, director Anubhav Sinha introduces other characters which include a single mother (Dia Mirza), Amrita’s lawyer (Maya Sarao) who is in a sham marriage and a housemaid (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) who is regularly subjected to domestic violence by her husband.
After Mulk and Article 15, Anubhav Sinha’s affinity for socially-relevant theme continues with Thappad. The 141-minute long social drama poses some relevant questions that’s seldomly addressed in the society when it comes to unfair marital norms. Without resorting to any melodramatic treatment, the director sheds light on the sexism rampant in Indian homes and how it has been normalized over the years in the guise of “thoda badarsht karna sikhna chahiye auraton ko“.
On the flip side, the slow-paced narrative especially in the first half, might bother some. The unimpressive background score too makes us deduct some points.
Even in a restrained character like Amrita, Taapsee Pannu makes a loud impact. Her transition from a vulnerable woman to someone who refuses to lose her self-esteem makes for a compelling watch.
Pavail Gulati as the highly-ambitious husband delivers a confident act and holds his own in front of a powerful performer like Taapsee.
Kumud Mishra and Ratna Pathak Shah as Amrita’s parents give you many heartwarming moments in the film. Despite being laden with a half-baked role, Dia Mirza lends some simplicity to the narrative. Geetika Vidya Odhyan is in a top form. Maya Sarao impresses in parts and pieces.
Soumik Mukherjee’s camerawork effectively flirts with the thought-provoking theme of the film to capture the required mood and setting. Yasha Ramchandani’s editing could have been tauter to make it a more compact film.
‘Ek Tukda Dhoop’ beautifully blends with the narrative of the film. However, Thappad disappoints when it comes to the background score.
In one of the sequences in the film, Piyush Mishra tells Taapsee Pannu, “Kahi baar sahi karne ka result happy nahi hota,” when the latter hesitatingly asks him if she is right with her choice of decision. Just the same way, Thappad too, dares to question the deep-rooted patriarchy and societal norms. But thankfully, it manages to hit the right notes to start a dialogue when it comes to calling out the wrong and unfair notions in the society.
We give 3.5 stars out of 5 for Taapsee Pannu’s Thappad.