Thappad: A Critical Review

Radhakanta Barik

Thappad a multi layered text which has been handled in a careful manner by the director of the film. Three layers are intertwined with each other. The main actors are able to connect with all three texts. This is the strength of the play. It is a woman centric story. The main character is able to relate all three stories. Text 1 talks of the values we inherit from a tradition which is being played by mothers of a society. All the main characters of the story are having mothers who stood for a tradition. Tradition can be deciphered in such a manner that family needs to be preserved at any cost. The heroine of the story tells this that ‘my mother your mother all have a role to play’ in maintaining such a tradition. Giving a thapad is just a minor thing which needs not to be exaggerated here.

Thapad is not the slap in the English. It is more than that. It is more than beating a woman by the partner. In maintaining the tradition the some form of coercive measures are required. This is sanctioned by the Hindu scriptures. To make one’s wife Sati one needs to use coercive measure against the woman.  That anything a male person does goes well. This goes into the heads of our male children. They learn these values which get exhibited in their actions. The male character shows that he feels disturbed for extraneous reason then his woman partner has to tolerate his nonsense. The sign of the structure gets signified in fixing a position of a woman in a family. In such subordination-super ordination relation a woman acquiesces to the subordinate position. There are four women characters in the film. One the main character Amrita is a house wife. The second is a lawyer married to a powerful lawyer’s house. The third woman who works with her husband and the fourth woman works as a house hold maid. The maid gets regular beating from her husband. This brings the story of Tendulakar’s Sakhārām Binder (1972).  All four face the challenges of power from the male partners. The lady lawyer faces the challenge from the dominant lawyer who sits in a chair without any voice. This symbolizes the power of the family over the young woman lawyer. To realize her potentiality she goes independent of this family. The second who is a partner in business establishment gets abused while her male partner speaks of power of language. Then he realizes his mistakes and apologizes. The third is the main heroine who works as a housewife faces the thappad from her husband. She enjoys the role of housewife as her own choice. After the thappad she loses her giggling smiling voice. She turns into complete silence and her silence talks of many stories. She acts by expressing a blank eyes and lifeless face. This style of acting shows the glimpse of Ray’s film where the art of storytelling can be done without words. After the incident of thappad, Amrita hardly talks in the story. She expresses in her emotions.  It can be said in facial expression and body language of the actor. She moves her body at slow pace which indicates the psychological turmoil she suffers after the incident.

The second text talks of the judiciary. The Indian judiciary specifically lawyers and judges are not trained to look at the conflict with a human angle. They look at the conflict from legal point of view which require evidences not truth. The lawyers are filing the cases from the legal point of view and from judicial complexities angle. Truth is getting wished away. Evidences show the differences between the false and truth getting blurred. Thappad cannot be the basis of divorce of estranged wife and husband. It requires other evidences related to cruelty by which divorce is possible. Once the thappad is accepted as a legal point then the issue becomes a criminal case where police investigation is required. It is a fascinating story getting unfolded for filing the divorce case.

Human relation needs honesty and integrity and it does not need evidences. One needs to respect differences with each other and provides space to each other without inferring in other’s world. The thappad creates illogical sequences for which the story moves from a simple to a complex one. The third text talks of sociology.  Furthermore it requires a sociological understanding of the problems and that patriarchy is so deep rooted which cannot be wished away by our women rights group who are fighting a legal battle. But it can be fought on the cultural level where poetry and theatre and storytelling can work out together in reproduction of a human relation based on trust and equality. Cultural front requires vibrancy for bringing a radical change in our outlook. Anubhav Sinha has handled the story telling in a controlled manner except the conclusion where one finds many answers are there to a single problem.

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May 29, 2020

Prof. Radhakanta Barik

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