To define feminism is to define equality. The feminist movement advocates to rid the population of patriarchy and misogyny and strives for women’s rights in order to create an equal society.
Thappad, a South Asian film, introduces the theme of feminism at its forefront; 'Thappad' translates to ‘Slap’ in English. The film stars Taapsee Pannu, Pavail Gulati and Tanvi Azmi in lead roles and creates conversation about the sacrifices women make in a marriage, particularly in India.
Thappad’s construction of the seemingly perfect marriage between Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) and Vikram (Pavail Gulati) quickly takes a sharp turn. At first, despite being a trained dancer, Amrita is the stereotypical housewife, succumbing to the needs of her husband. Committed to closely following Amrita’s morning routine, the camera navigates her chores: she wakes at 6am, picks the post, makes fresh Indian tea, waters the plants, checks her mother in laws blood sugar level and gives her husband breakfast in bed. It is as if Amrita’s life is within Vikram’s, ensuring facileness. However, it becomes evident that Vikram’s routine is Amrita. Without her, he is ineffectual.
Vikram is an incredibly successful businessman who is looking to be promoted and subsequently relocate to London. However, at a party celebrating, Vikram receives a call informing him the promotion is no longer his. Angered, he starts a fight with his superior. Several men intervene but are told to ‘get lost’. As Amrita intervenes, Vikram slaps her in front of everyone. His male superior is left unscathed, Amrita shaken. The handheld camera rotates and focuses on her, and there is ringing background noise as the movie shifts to a slow-motion shot, therefore encapsulating the shock Amrita is feeling.
Thereafter, Amrita's character shifts to one that is silent and numb to the response. But it is this silence that speaks and stands for herself, separate from her husband. The silence acts as a vehicle for the start of the independence and the equality she has ignored throughout her married life.
It is as if the one slap is a metaphor for the start of admonishing the conditioning a woman is subjected to in marriage
The movie introduces the theme of female independence in a world that adheres to ingrained misogyny. Unable to live in the home she was violated in, Amrita leaves for her parents and discovers she is pregnant. At her family home, her mother is outraged, explaining ‘woman have to learn tolerance to keep the family together’. Her brother describes the event as a ‘small episode’, one that is ‘understandable’ because after all, Vikram needed to take his anger out on someone.
These opinions within the film represent structures of power whereby a woman is deemed to be instinctively more understanding and accepting of ridding herself of respect.
The movie introduces an empowered female personality, one that is seldom seen particularly in South Asian culture
It is only once the divorce is finalised that Vikram finally apologises to Amrita. He explains he has realised his wrongdoings and has quit his job. This scene evidences the impact of a woman willing to unshackle herself whereby men, similar to Vikram, then realise the sacrifices their wives make for them and their families.
The film ends following the two cars as they leave the court, with Amrita turning left and Vikram turning right, officially going their separate ways.
Thappad’s end offers stimulating conversation, one questions the adaptation to misogyny that women succumb to so easily and willingly. Yes, it may well have been one slap, but it is that one slap that purveys commitment to conveying female independence within an industry and country that rarely stands for or exhibits a related movement of its kind.