BOLLYWOOD: Women who object to violence from their husbands get to hear these lines repeatedly, even when the man is a serial offender. If the protest is against infrequent physical abuse or a solitary episode, the volume of these degrading clichés rises manifold. In Thappad, Taapsee Pannu’s character elicits variations of these responses from almost everyone around her. What makes this film what it is is the protagonist’s – and the writers’ – unwavering conviction that in the matter of spousal assault, once is once too many.
Writer-director Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad (Slap), which he co-wrote with Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul, features Pannu as a stay-at-home wife whose feelings for her husband turn from devotion to indifference when he strikes her one day. They have been a traditional couple until then. He has a busy career, she makes his dreams her own. While he labours over office assignments, she labours over his every need, serving him meals, chasing him up to the car with his wallet and a beverage while feeding him his unfinished breakfast, caring for his elderly mother, maintaining the house, entertaining guests.
They seem to be happy. So when she switches off after a single slap, most people cannot understand. As he himself puts it, “Shit happens. It happens. People move on.”
Thappad beautifully spotlights various shades of men, from the haughty hero to another far more likeable person who is astonished to discover that he – like so many men around us – is a feminist for his daughter but unconsciously patriarchal with his wife.