We are in the year 2020 but still, a lot of objectionable trends are sadly quite common. Violence against women, especially, continues despite progress of our country and growth in education and standard of living. Anubhav Sinha, whose 2.0 avatar has given us films on Hindu-Muslim unity [MULK; 2018] and caste discrimination [ARTICLE 15; 2019] now takes up this topic for his latest hard-hitting flick, THAPPAD. The trailer has already intrigued viewers because of its storyline and the association of Taapsee Pannu and Anubhav with this project. So does THAPPAD manage to be as impactful as Anubhav’s last two films? Or does it disappoint? Let’s analyse.
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THAPPAD is the story of a woman fighting a tough battle. Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) is a housewife and is happily married to Vikram (Pavail Gulati) in Delhi. Vikram works in a reputed company and is desperately looking forward to an opportunity which will take him to London for work purposes. Amrita knows how much this means to Vikram. She loves him with all her heart and her entire life revolves around him and in attending to his mother, Sulochana (Tanvi Azmi). Thankfully for Vikram, he’s selected for the London stint. The same night, he throws a party in his house. All is going well until he gets a call from his superior, Thapar. He informs Vikram that he won’t be getting the desired profile that he’s looking for in London and that he’ll have to report to an authority there. This is not something that Vikram was initially assured. He confronts Rajhans, another superior of Vikram and who is present in the party. Things heat up between them and Amrita tries to pacify him. In the process, Vikram slaps Amrita. Her whole world comes crashing down. She tries to move on but is just not able to. Vikram shows regret when he realizes that Amrita has been hurt by his actions. He tries to console her but it doesn’t work for her. Amrita hence shifts to the house of her parents (Kumud Mishra and Ratna Pathak Shah). Vikram stops her and later even comes to take her back. But she doesn’t budge. Vikram then sends a legal notice to her. Swati (Naila Grewal), the girlfriend of Amrita’s brother Karan (Ankur Rathee), suggests that Amrita should show this letter to Nethra (Maya Sarao), a reputed lawyer and Swati’s boss. Nethra suggests that Amrita should solve this issue amicably. Amrita however doesn’t want to and she insists on a divorce. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Anubhav Sushila Sinha and Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul's story is superb and applause-worthy. In a society where repeated acts of violence committed by husbands on their wives is fairly common, it requires guts to pull off a film where the woman has been hit just once by the husband and yet make it seem convincing. Anubhav Sushila Sinha and Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul's screenplay (script consultant: Anjum Rajabali) helps a lot in ensuring that the audiences get persuaded to agree with the vision of the team. They very well put out the situation and how patriarchy is deeply ingrained in our psyche, not just in case of men but also women. Anubhav Sushila Sinha and Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul's dialogues are acidic and sharp and add to the impact. Some of them simplify the proceedings but that goes in favour of the film. There are lot of one-liners that will surely hit viewers and make them reflect on their own wrongdoings.
Anubhav Sushila Sinha's direction is superlative. He has not just penned a great script but he has even executed it very well. The world and mood is drastically different when compared to MULK and ARTICLE 15 but he understands it and does justice. Amrita’s predicament is well established and one is bound to get moved by her struggle, especially when even her family members fail to support her. There are also several subplots and most of them are well helmed and add to the principle plot nicely. There are a few scenes where he does a fine job like Shivani (Dia Mirza) hugging Amrita, Sulochana ignoring the slap and insisting that Amrita should attend to the guests, Amrita’s father scolding his son for misbehaving with Swati, Amrita’s mother Sandhya chiding for not getting support to continue her singing career, the confrontation between the lawyers etc. On the flipside, the second half seems dragging. The makers could have done away with the track of Sulochana living separately as it just added to the subplots needlessly. Additionally, they could have fine-tuned the track of the lawyer cheating on her husband. A section of audience might find the entire bit of Vikram not apologizing to Amrita difficult to digest. It’s strange that no one from his circle suggested that he should say sorry. It’s only in the pre-climax that this issue is raised in front of him.
<span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Thappad | Public Review | Taapsee Pannu | Anubhav Sinha | First Day First Show</strong></span>
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THAPPAD has an impressive beginning where all the supporting characters are introduced and the commonality is them having an ice-cream. Amrita’s introduction is superbly down. It does give one a déjà vu of Nishikant Kamat’s classic Marathi film DOMBIVALI FAST  but it works very well here to depict what her day looks like. The highpoint is definitely the party sequence and the slap. After this scene, it might feel that the film is stagnating but those scenes are important to explain how Amrita’s life has changed drastically post the slap. The intermission point is great. Post-interval, the interest is maintained but this is where the film drags. One expects <em>dhamaka</em> when the parties come face-to-face but nothing of that sort happens. The confrontation is there and though it is sync with the film’s plot and mood, it might seem mild, especially those expecting some entertainment here. The film ends on a justified note.
THAPPAD has several excellent actors but it belongs to Taapsee Pannu without a shred of doubt. She has delivered several memorable performances and this one will surely be one of her most accomplished acts! She gets completely into the skin of character, making viewers forget of her earlier performances. You forget its Taapsee when you see her dutifully performing her housewife duties. Pavail Gulati makes a fantastic debut. He looks dashing and completely suits the part. Kumud Mishra is terrific. Anubhav Sinha always extracts a fine performance from him and THAPPAD is no exception. Ratna Pathak Shah is quite subtle and makes an impact. Same with Tanvi Azmi – her dialogue in the finale sums up the film in a way. Maya Sarao is a powerhouse of talent and is an actor to watch out for. She gets her act totally right, especially her body language. Geetika Vidya (Sunita) gets to play a memorable part and she kills it. Dia Mirza has limited screen time but it works. Gracy Goswami (Sania; Shivani’s daughter) has a fine screen presence and she dances nicely. Naila Grewal, Manav Kaul (Rohit Jaisingh), Ram Kapoor (Advocate Gujral) and Ankur Rathee are fair. Harssh A Singh (Thapar), Santanu Ghatak (Vikram’s colleague Subodh), Rohan Khurana (Nethra's love interest), Sushil Dahiya (Vikram's father), Siddhant Karnick (Vikram's brother), Nidhi Uttam (Vikram's sister-in-law) and the actor playing Rajhans also do a good job.
Anurag Dipali Saikia's music doesn’t have much scope. <em>'Ek Tukda Dhoop'</em> however has a nice, lingering effect. Mangesh Urmila Dhakde's background score is magnificent. The initial sequences have a jazz style music that gives a nice touch. Soumik Sarmila Mukherjee's cinematography is top-class. Vishakha Vidya Kullarwar's costumes are appealing, especially the saree worn by Taapsee in the party. Jyotika Mirpuri Aroura's make-up and hair is appropriate. Nikhil Kshipra Kovale's production design is rich. Yashpa Pushpa Ramchandani's editing could have been a tighter, but overall he has done a commendable job.
On the whole, THAPPAD makes a strong statement on patriarchy and violence against women and is laced with a powerful performance by Taapsee Pannu. At the box office, it will be loved and adored by its target audience – the womenfolk.