Thappad Review (No Spoilers): What Happens When Women Stop “Adjusting” After Marriage

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.”

Image result for thappad poster

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.

Image result for thappad

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.

8 thoughts on “Thappad Review (No Spoilers): What Happens When Women Stop “Adjusting” After Marriage

  1. I am going to watch it this afternoon and I am so excited about it. I just watched Mulk yesterday and it was excellent. What I love about Anubhav Sinha is how incredibly well every scene and every dialogue is. And I don’t mean the preachy ones but the “throw away” lines that are so easy to ignore have the most impact on me. For example in Mulk in the beginning the family is celebrating Eid and everyone from the neighborhood is invited and participating in the celebrations but in the middle of a song when someone invites a guest to eat, she makes a statement that singing and dancing with “these people” is fine she doesn’t eat with them. Or in Article 15 when Ayushman’s girlfriend is trying to make a point to him about how even in his household the “help” never ate with them and he never questions it, but she is doing it while sitting in a very nice car and ignoring the panhandlers outside.

    Another similarity that I noticed between Mulk and Article 15 that impressed me if how messy each situation is and while there is clearly a “good guy” there are always some redeeming qualities in the bad guy. every character is so well thought out . And it’s never an easy answer or a simple solution, which maybe why the endings always suffer a bit.

    At the same time, I love that his movies are not really artsy for example with ambiguous endings or go down the path or pandering to Oscars. They are quintessentially Indian, which is why maybe the endings suffer a bit, but someone like me relates and likes them so much.

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    • With his films, what I love is that he is getting at the subconscious level. It’s not a matter of making a choice between “good” and “bad”, but making a choice to even acknowledge what you are doing in the moment. You can be a “good” person who never intends harm, but that doesn’t mean you don’t DO harm. This movie is filled with men who are basically “good” men (except for maybe Manav Kaul), but they are so used to thinking of themselves as “good” that they don’t question their behavior.

      Maybe it’s that he is calling for constant personal assessment? Don’t just think of yourself as “good” and relax, earn that day by day by day. Even those little things that don’t matter, do matter.

      On Sun, Mar 1, 2020 at 5:33 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Oooof, ignore the massive amount of typos in the first comment. This is what happens when I post a comment before 5:00 am!

        He is absolutely getting at the subconscious level, with all his films. He is asking us to question what we don’t really “see” but is right in front of our eyes. He is asking us to question norms and have the hard discussions. For example, in Thappad, it was fascinating to see how every single man automatically without question was behind Pavail, they were ready to whatever was needed to protect Pavail. Yet, the women were divided for most of the movie. How often do we see this? Even more importantly, how often do we do this in our every day life or in our jobs?

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        • Yes! Like, it took me a second to figure out who was Pavail’s brother, versus his father, versus his lawyer, versus his co-worker, because they were all so 100% behind him.

          And, really interesting, the same man who broke rank and called him on his behavior with his wife was the one who broke rank and called him on his behavior at work. Maybe it’s not just about patriarchy in general, but specifically that “golden boy” effect. Pavail had his whole family dancing to his tunes (his mother leaving her other son and husband to care for him, and his in-laws seeming more invested in his career than their own son), and everyone at the office too. The only person who wasn’t snowed blinded by it at work was also the person who wasn’t blinded by it in his personal life. There are guys like that, right? Who are naturally talented, but were also raised by a family so convinced of their “specialness” that they become convinced of their “specialness” themselves and go out in the world acting in such a way that they kind of brainwash everyone around them into thinking they are special and deserve extra credit. If Taapsee’s brother had hit his girlfriend, there wouldn’t have been this universal support for him. Heck, we SAW that! He spoke roughly to her, and his parents called him on it immediately, probably the same way they sided with his teacher when he misbehaved in school and told him he had to work harder if he wanted the promotion at work and so on and so forth. While Pavail was clearly raised with an understanding that whatever he did, was perfect.

          On Mon, Mar 2, 2020 at 8:14 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • You make an excellent point about brainwashing and I think it was absolutely true when you see how differently Pavail’s family reacted to Taapsee versus how Kumud and Ratna reacted to the Ankur talking roughly to Naila. Kumud was immediately angry at his son and when Ankur tried to explain himself to Ratna, she immediately shut him up and told him to stop talking to her and go apologize to Naila.

            To me, another very interesting way Anubhav showed how prevalent and ingrained the brainwashing can be is through Tanvi’s cooking. Taapsee is so impressed with Tanvi’s cooking. Even at the end when she is confronting Tanvi, Taapsee says that Tanvi is such a good cook that she should start a class to teach women how to cook. But NOONE ever asks Tanvi if she even enjoys cooking. In fact, when asked how she became such a good cook, Tanvi explains that it was because of insults from her husband and MIL. She did what was necessary to stop the insults. Tanvi is NEVER shown to enjoy cooking. Everyone just assumes that a good wife, a good mother, should also be a good cook, and if you are a good cook, you must enjoy cooking. Even Taapsee to some extent is blinded by this assumption based on the confrontation scene.

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          • Also, this is completely silly, but did Naila Grewal (Taapsee’s brother’s gf) give you Swara Bhaskar vibes? For a second, I thought it was Swara.

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          • YES! And I also think I have seen her in something before and I can’t figure out what it was, or if it was just Swara vibes blinding me.

            On Mon, Mar 2, 2020 at 11:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Oh, YES! And the last moment of Pavail leaving the house is him noticing and looking at all the many careful recipes Taapsee had written. And all the times people say he was willing to marry Taapsee even though he is a “foodie” and she can’t cook. And the way Pavail casually refused her food in preference for his mother’s. Tanvi’s ability to cook was treated as a moral victory, while Taapsee’s inability was a moral failing that she was constantly reminded about. Probably also not a coincidence that Tanvi was diabetic and Taapsee took perfect care of her. Tanvi was a good cook because her family liked how the food tasted, but she wasn’t actually taking care of her own food intake or thinking about her own food needs to the point of almost dying. Taapsee was a “bad” cook, but knew how to keep Tanvi alive with the food she was making, even Taapsee’s family (never treated as quite as good) were careful to give only sugarfree sweets and care for Tanvi in that way, while Tanvi’s family praised her cooking and let her kill herself with food. We saw even with the maid’s storyline that men consistently say their mother’s are better cooks than their wives. Is it really objectively “better” or is it just a perpetual cycle of wives being held to the standard of what their husband is used to until the modify their own cooking and taste to match it and become “good”? And is the purpose of food to be this perfect experience for the man, or to sustain the whole household?

            On Mon, Mar 2, 2020 at 11:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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