A slap can trigger a huge change. It can be dramatically life defining. The last straw on the camel’s back. Anubhav Sinha as the post Tum Bin avatar is reaching new cinematic heights. His social trilogy: Mulk, Article 15 and Thappad are engaging films, thought provoking and within the mainstream gauge. Thappad is not just about protagonist Amrita (Tapsee). It is about women in their different settings but a threaded immorality – victims of gender placing. So we have moms who give up their talents, women their dreams and those their happiness – all to fit into the many facets that without a whimper move to the back burner and into the seeming comfort zone of matrimony and its many implications. Also this late in the day far cry from the Meena Kumari – Nanda times to the to the now where women are coming to seek their space at a matter of right is happily common place with minimal platitudes.
The flow is very logical. Each right in their own space – in their own place. Things come crashing when the happily (?) married Amrita is slapped at a party by her drunk effected and frustrated yuppie hubby Vikram (Pavail Gulati). Her parents (Kumud Mishra and Ratna Pathak) and ma-in-law (Tanvi Azmi) are shell shocked. Even the domestic help Sunita (Geetika Vidya – herself a victim of domestic violence), single mom neighbour Shivani (Diya Mirza arguably in her best outing since Tehzeeb). The story is not about what is happening. It is how happenings – the linear tale of Amrita and Vikram moving from a hunky dory couple to irretrievable breakdown of marriage. This is a chunk of life story where men are not so much villains as they are men and THERE perhaps lies the problem. It is also about women who have socially been guilty of contributory negligence to the status.
This film is about dialogues and some superb writing (Anubhav and Mrunmayee Lagoo). It is about the gal who questions the efficiency of matrimony as a logical conclusion of love; the career lady lawyer activist who gives in to marital rape, the middle class mom who was indoctrinated into believing that being mom is the pedestal for women; hey the ma-in-law who is nice to the doting daughter-in-law because of her son; the single mother who is so so much mother that she loves only her precious past and the Bai – hurt but torrent – all different – all same same.
Another strength of the film comes from top grade performances from Ratna Pathak, Tanvi Azmi, Dia Mirza, Manav Kaul, Sandeep Yadav, Ankur Rathee and Naina Grewal – all superb in their own right.
Tapsee has surely earned a niche space for herself. The choice of her roles reflects that she guards it zealously. Her metamorphosis from a self-contained, domesticated, happy hey housewife to the dignified anger with the warring spouse is poetry in motion. Her balance, her poise, her sense of cinema makes for compelling viewing. Debutant Pavail Gulati keep his own in the crowded assembly of winners. He’s not the ‘launched hero’ and will be ignored by those who distribute awards. He has the most challenging role on hand. He Is the winner. Even in a scene where Tapsee has all the dialogues and cinema is panning all but him and he has his back to the camera he leaves an impact.
This stab on prejudice patriarch has not come a minute soon. Independent of how it performs at the box office the discerning will lap this and treasure it.
Most films irritate, hey some entertain, some are engrossing. Rare here are films that not only make you think but compel you to verify your premises. This is no tickle, no cajole. It is thappad.