Director Anubhav Sinha yet again gives a powerful film that introduces you to yourself in this broad framework called ‘society’
“Just a slap… Par, Nahi maar sakta…” Hats off to the idea. You’ve seen a lot of films in Bollywood lately which talk about women and their desires, ambitions, their rights, identity, or the very existence. Thappad works only because it is all of these, yet so very different. The idea should be hailed here, for putting across something that is known by all but is let gone. The characters in the film also ask its lead to let go, just as what you as a society would do. And that’s when the film starts to rise and soar, hitting you hard- in your faces, your hearts, and in the minds.
Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) is a happily married housewife to a successful man Vikram (Pavail Gulati). Everything is fine till in a heat of moment one day, Vikram slaps her.
Written by Sinha and Mrunmayee Lagoo Vaikul, the film grips you with its approach. The start is breezy and romance flows all across. The setting is good. Thinking of the scenario, it is directly linked to how a society functions, where everything is hunky dory in the beginning. And slowly and eventually things loosen. And that’s when you need to take charge. Now the film is much more than just being on domestic violence. It is about years of positioning and conditioning of human beings and where have they come so far.
The approach is clear. No sermons. No preaching. No superfluous dialogues. Straight to the point. Although the point isn’t casual. Early on in the film you are shown how regularly a husband is asking for his wife for a few things. Mundane routine chores. Perfectly fine. It is only later that when the protagonist reminisces of all that she has ignored that you also start opening your eyes.
Also, what is to be noted in terms of societal context is that everybody- the woman herself, parents, friends, and even the lawyer at first instinct find ‘letting go’ as the only option. The makers here directly hit at you and make a statement about how deeply ingrained patriarchy is that for the society as a whole, things are so common. They want you to think- just like the other characters of the film- is Amrita taking it too far? And that’s where the resolution of the narrative finds its groove.
The writers haven’t made the film only on one character. The film has an ensemble cast with each one contributing significantly. Now you will have to look at each of them as independent elements of the society to be able to understand why the writers have sketched so many characters.
What is impressive of the makers is how they have shown the transition of a woman and her identity. What she believes is right following it later over the course of the film comes out very naturally in the writing. And mind you, that’s not an easy task to achieve on paper and then onto the screen. It’s a difficult film. But it’s been pulled off with flair. Striking important dialogues, the film targets the entire frame of the society.
The dialogues are gems. Crisp. Hard hitting. Subtle dialogues saying a lot. One lines conveying a complete feeling. The connect between the characters- Amrita and her house help, Amrita and her lawyer, Amrita and her neighbor-is noteworthy.
Taapsee Pannu is a sure shot winner. Call it her destiny- the roles she’s getting are path breaking. Not to undermine the fact that she breathes life in whatever she does on screen. You see the women in your lives in her. Your mother, sister, aunt, daughter. She is so convincing in her portrayal that you actually start wondering if the women in your family or surroundings went through the same and never uttered a word owing to the ‘let go’ approach. She says so much through her eyes. The film proves with what dignity she’s matured as an actor over time.
Pavail Gulati has also done a great job. He is a loving husband, even after he has slapped his wife. And this dilemma that a man faces as to what he should do now has been brought out extremely well by him. You don’t hate him. But remain at a distance. And that’s because Gulati is brilliant.
Maya Sarao as the lawyer is amazing. She has a well defined role and she has the best time. She also has layers in her and so her role is important. Geetika Vidya Ohlyan also has her definitive moments as the house maid giving a balanced act. Whenever she comes on screen, you expect soul and emotions.
The film has an array of marvellous actors on board, all of whom not only add confidence into the plot, but contribute tremendously in their respective capacities. Ratna Pathak Shah and Tanvi Azmi portray women who are at opposite ends but slightly similar in their mental position. They have performed well. Kumud Mishra has been given some of the most important scenes and lines and he doesn’t disappoint. He never does, does he?
Ram Kapoor is very good in his upright body language. Dia Mirza in a true supporting act is effective. Manav Kaul has a brief role. He does fine.
Naila Grewal is very good in an understated supporting role.
Songs by Anurag Saikia are few but work nicely for the soul of the film. They bind the story together. Background score by Mangesh Dhakde is particularly impressive and effective. There are portions that are accentuated only by a very good use score. The mood and feelings are rightly set and you get invested in the drama deeply.
Cinematography by Soumik Mukherjee is good, working rightly for the feel of the film. The colors especially are chosen intelligently. Although the film is colorful talking about a posh and elite culture, there is an inherent darkness and gloom, for the message the film tries to convey. This is achieved satisfactorily. Production design by Nikhil Kovale is real, brimming with natural connect.
Editing by Yasha Ramchandani is simple but very much engaging and gripping. The film has a standard structure that works well for the narrative here. The characters are set up, conflict is shown, and the lead then moves towards resolution. Give it to the editor here for giving utmost breathing space to everything that needs it for you as an audience to consume it.
The film is a reminder to the society. A wake up call. Irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman- if you are good at heart, this film will make you walk up to the women in your houses, ask them if they have faced any wrong and have let it gone over the years. Probably this will make those good men and women introspect. The fault is everybody’s. The film reminds you it’s never too late to rectify the mistakes. Or is it?