Such a weird sleep day! Up super early, bed super early, and now it’s 2am and I just popped away and thought “well heck, I might as well write my Thappad review”.
This is a really interesting film, as are all of Anubhav Sinha’s new movies, because it deals with the invisible problems, not the big obvious ones, but the hidden ones that lead to the big obvious ones. So most of the main characters are middle-class to straight up rich, their problems are very minor compared to the Big Serious Problems of other classes, and that’s the point. Their minor problems, leaving the door open for them, is what leads to those Big Serious Problems. It’s not saying “these rich people problems are the worst thing ever”, it’s saying “we know these aren’t the worst things ever, but ignoring them means worst things are allowed to happen.”
Because Anubhav wants to make a bigger statement, he has a big big cast. Taapsee is the lead, and is great. But there’s also Ratna Pathak, Tanvi Azmi, Kumud Mishra, Dia Mirza, Ram Kapoor, and Manav Kaul. Not super big names, but bigger than I would expect for the supporting roles they play here. And outside of the big names, so many other actors! Maya Sarao, Geetika Vidya, Naina Grewal, and on and on. Each of them get their own set-piece moments, their own full storylines, and each of them deal with a unique aspect of the whole male-female power dynamic in a marriage.
It’s not a perfect movie. The last ten minutes particular are a bit artificial feeling, with each of the main storylines getting a tidy individual ending. And Anubhav doesn’t really have a good answer for how to have a marriage in Indian society without messing with the power dynamic within it. There’s also very little lightness to it, it tends slightly towards the “every conversation is a big serious conversation” problem of message movies. And yes, it is about Rich People Problems, and Anubhav struggles a bit with what to do with his one lower class character. But it is a lot closer to perfect than it could be. And it is perfectly what Anubhav wanted to say.
A man beating his wife isn’t about just a man beating his wife. Intimate partner abuse cuts across genders. What doesn’t cross genders is societal acceptance of intimate partner abuse, and the way that abuse can be part of a greater pattern of seeing your wife as a possession, not a person. This isn’t a movie about abuse, there is a reason it is just one slap. It’s not a pattern of physical abuse, it’s a pattern of a man dismissing his wife’s feelings because he was never taught that he was supposed to behave any other way.
The most important and unusual part of this film, to me, was the explanation of how even “good” men fall into this trap. It’s just easy to accept sacrifices from your wife, because everyone expects it, including your wife herself. You need to look beyond that, you need to force yourself to be a better person than anyone expects, because you love your wife and you want her to be happy. And besides, it’s the right thing to do.