Don’t take insults and abuses hands down.
By Zia Darakhshan
The office was full of conversation and caffeine as I kept taking sips from my cup of coffee while planning weekly feature stories with my editor. A knock on the door and a woman, probably in her thirties, walked in. Romana (name changed) was accompanied by a fellow journalist who introduced her to us. Her pale face was etched with deep purplish wrinkles that indicated something was wrong.
Married eight months back, Romana’s life has become a nightmare. Initially, Romana decided to endure insults and physical abuse hoping that, with love, she might be able to change her husband and dissuade him from pursuing other women but that was not to be. She had to finally approach the local police station and go back to her mother’s home with the hope that it might prompt his husband to reconsider his ugly behavior and apologize. Nothing of that sort was going to happen. Instead, she was harassed, stalked, humiliated by him even at her workplace, to the extent that the only option she has now is to call off the marriage. There is absolutely no hope, she told us.
Fortunately for her, Romana is an economically independent working lady. She can support herself if the marriage terminates.
Romana’s is just one such story. There are many stories around us of women who are living in terrible marriages and compromising as women have been for centuries. Women have been trained to accept men with their flaws and carry the burden of making a marriage work. They’re warned they have no decent life to live if they divorce. It’s viewed as a stigma, not just on them but on their families as well.
Even when families know their marriage is a living hell for them, women are told to give in to the centuries-old patriarchal mindset of the society.
Patriarchy needs to be challenged aggressively and women have to take the lead. Don’t take insults and abuses hands down. Fight for your rights and dignity. Walk out of a bad marriage, more so when there’s no hope. Don’t let others decide what you want from life. Watch Thappad – the 2020 movie that bravely criticizes the patriarchal mindset of our societies.
Thappad is an eye-opener for anyone who considers marriage to be the ultimate goal of our uncertain lives. It dispels age-old beliefs that marriages are made in heaven and should endure until the end, even if they choke us to our very core. The movie tickles our brains, conditioned for centuries to believe marriages are one-sided affairs, particularly in our Indian society, and the role of the woman is crucial to their success.
In Thappad, Taapsee Pannu as Amrita plays the lead role. Amrita is a simple, highly educated girl whose husband Vikram (Pavail Gulati) shocks her when he slaps her at a corporate party for no apparent reason. Her humiliation followed by the never-mind attitude of her husband and family wakes Amrita up to call the marriage off even while she is expecting.
Thappad, directed by Anubhav Sinha, exposes the patriarchal dominance that exists within the so-called progressive societies. The plot depicts a perfect family with a Saas-Bahu connection, an ambitious husband, and a subdued wife who fulfills her responsibilities to the best of her ability. The couple is all lovey-dovey until her husband slaps her at a family gathering meant to celebrate his achievement in securing a dream corporate project. In the aftermath of the incident, Amrita begins to evaluate her marriage. Shaken by the incident, Amrita reconsiders the relationship with the man she so deeply loves.
The movie discusses many aspects of women’s lives that are demeaning to them, such as social stigma around divorce, the denial of self-respect and the mindset of people to ignore domestic abuse. After violence has ravaged a woman’s mind and soul, she is subjected to sermons as if she has no mind of her own.
In Thappad, Amrita’s case is compounded by the unapologetic attitude of her husband who thinks a slap is not so big an issue that it should end a relationship. Traditionally, the society expects women not to break up their families even when men behave violently.
The movie carries subtle messages without explicitly coming out and stating them.
The chalta hai approach is not justified in any case. Thappad does a damn good job covering everything that it takes to make a good film. Tapasee Pannu’s spectacular acting is the icing on the cake.
A few parallel stories revolve around the protagonist, but at the end of the day, all women share the same story. They are seen incomplete without a man and are believed to have few options after he leaves them. It does not matter whether she is as powerful as Amrita’s female lawyer who, in the public domain, brings justice to people, but in her private life is constantly criticised and her success attributed to her husband’s connections. Or the underprivileged domestic help of Amrita who is day in and day out roughed up by her husband even though it is she who feeds and provides for the family.
Other women also get a spotlight in the movie, like, Amrita’s mother-in-law, who has always been ignored by her husband despite sacrificing her life for her family. Or Amrita’s mother who gave up her dreams because she was led to believe that is what women have been doing all along and she must too.
The movie weaves together threads of these stories at the right moments. Amrita’s father, who supports her decision to quit the relationship, is heard encouraging her to listen to her intuition. The movie also touches upon the stark legal side of such cases with law being used as a mere tool to get away with any abuse by the perpetrator. Amrita, though with a heavy heart, makes her decision and walks away.
It must be sad for Romana that her faith in the system has crumbled, but she hasn’t abandoned her hope for a better life in future. She knows she will find a way one day once she makes a choice. She wants to live a decent, respectable life for which she has to make a choice.