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The Positive Outcomes Blog

“Thappad” (Slap!) - Movie Review

2020 film review by Laxmi Parmeswar MA MS LPC

(A woman, daughter, sister, US immigrant, wife, mother, and licensed family therapist)

Watching this movie during Covid-19, was akin to creating a large quilt with a beautiful patch work of photographic memories spanning through significant segments of one’s own life, minus the fateful ‘thappad’. And that’s what makes it subtle/sensitive and significant!

The movie is a powerful story that weaves through the many textures of a woman’s identity in contemporary times. The story is set in India and boldly tackles the unique stories of several families, with a focus of one woman whose life changes after being slapped by her husband in public, at a social gathering hosted by them in their own home. What follows is her difficult journey, moving from the role of being a victim to emerging as a survivor, but not without being shaken at her very core and losing so much in the process.

The director, Anubhav Sinha, skillfully portrays the diaspora of the Indian extended family and community; their perspectives, their sensitivities, and different generational realities. The parallel stories of a single woman and her child, the protagonist’s lawyer’s marriage, and the poignant story of the maid’s marriage are all rich additions that make the viewer dwell on the complicated nuances of families and marriages; and how all these spaces are never black or white but multiple shades of grey in a large continuum.

It’s hard to miss some takeaways from this powerful movie. Some women just don’t perceive themselves as having choices (the maid), others may have them and not exercise the option of choosing them and those (like the protagonist) who are willing to take the bold step of embarking on that difficult path of making the choice to leave and risk not landing on their feet

Another aspect worth noting is how the men (husbands and fathers) are portrayed - characters with many layers, and not one dimensional like in most Indian movies. The performances are outstanding with Taapsee Pannu knocking it out of the park; and her husband, played by Pavail Gulati demands equal praise for his sensitive portrayal.

Lastly, the movie attempts to force the viewer to grapple with serious questions like intimacy in marriages, mutual respect or lack thereof, how humiliation and subjugation can build over time, and how easy it is for women (and men) to lose their identities and struggle with their own priorities.

Professionally (for me), working with couples in clinical settings for at least 25 years (and personally being married for longer than that), this movie reinforces the clinical perspective that every couple should consider taking their marriage just one year at a time, reconnecting and recognizing that every happy marriage is a lot of hard work and so much more than what meets the eye...

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