Civic Studios conducted a study that analysed online conversations following the movie’s release and found greatly varying reactions.
Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad, a story of patriarchal violence and a woman’s refusal to accept it, released at a time when domestic violence cases all over the world were at an all time high.
Thappad is the story of Amrita (Taapsee Pannu), a dutiful upper class homemaker in a seemingly regular Indian household. Her workaholic husband (Pavail Gulati) slaps her in a fit of rage at a party organised to celebrate his overseas posting. The slap directly leads to Amrita’s estrangement with the marriage and the eventual legal separation. Along the way, the film unveils patriarchal practices internalised by both men and women as normal.
Along the way, the film unveils the internalisation of patriarchal principles by both men and women. After the movie was released, viewers took to social media to express their views on the film. Civic Studios analysed social media responses of female audiences. Using a mixed-method approach, over 170 comments posted on women’s-only social media groups were anonymised, coded and statistically analysed over six weeks after its release. The social media users were married, separated and divorced women in the age range of 30-50 years from Mumbai and Delhi.
Sixty-five percent of analysed comments expressed highly positive views about the movie. The message that women deserve both love and respect in a relationship appealed strongly to this group. About 37 percent of social media users indicated that domestic violence had affected them directly and thus expressed a strong personal connection with the movie. Amrita’s decision to not stay silent was applauded as a testament to a woman’s agency to choose a life of dignity.
Some viewers said that after watching the film,they had a resurgence of confidence to take a stand against an abusive partner.
Most popular dialogues
“I only wanted three things — love, dignity and respect.”
“Humne beton ko sikhaayaa hii nahi ki haq nahi hai tumhaara kissi pe haath uthaane ka.”
“Jahaan jod kar rakhni padi, matlab woh cheez tooti hui hai na.”
Social media users also appreciated the movie’s perceptive criticism of the gendered division of labour in a marriage. Amrita’s primary job is taking care of the house, while her husband Vikram works as a high power executive in a corporate. He takes for granted her role as a homemaker and belittles her other abilities. A number of viewers said that they could relate to the situation, and expressed how this kind of emotional abuse remains the most dominant form of oppression women find difficult to oppose.
Why do audiences support Amrita?
Audiences supported Amrita’s decision on three broad aspects: her zero tolerance policy towards physical/emotional abuse, her personal choice to take legal action and her action being a step towards unlearning patriarchal conditioning.
About 83 percent of viewers said that they support her decision to end the marriage and feel that it was in her best interest. Although, some express doubts on whether one slap is reason enough to end a marriage.
Audiences who didn’t agree with Amrita
Some viewers held the view that Amrita did not try to resolve issues through communicating with her husband. They also feel that legal action is unrealistic and she shouldn’t have refused alimony from her husband.
Audiences pointed out how situations like that of Amrita’s rarely escalate to the point of seeking legal redressal. They felt that the film glossed over nuances of their unhealthy married relationship and didn’t address their complete lack of communication.
While juxtaposing the movie with their own lived experience, social media users felt that Thappad doesn’t address the primary reasons which prevent women from walking out of violent relationships in real life. One social media user opined, “While the film picked a bigger issue, it fails homemakers miserably.” Viewers pointed out how living in a shared household, financial dependence on the male partner and caring for a growing child were some of the practical aspects women have to take into account when considering separation.
Amrita’s upper-middle class background, and the support she gets from her family, were frequently cited as factors which facilitated her decision to separate from her husband. Viewers felt that the ability to take action was strongly contingent on socio-economic circumstances. Others felt that the movie unnecessarily stigmatised taking alimony by covertly implying that asking for monetary compensation is demanding “an unfair share”.
In conclusion, while Thappad could have pushed the envelope further on actions and options available to women from different backgrounds, it did spark the much needed conversations on domestic violence. Thappad’s importance lies in being identifiable to those closely affected by patriarchal practices and domestic violence and in sending out the simple message that violence is not okay.