Taapsee Pannu is known for picking up roles that highlight the power of a woman. Be it her role in Pink where she spoke about consent or her role in Saand Ki Aankh where she doesn’t listen to naysayers, she chooses characters that aren’t subservient to the men in the story but, in fact, have their own agency. After a successful 2019 with films like Saand Ki Aankh, Game Over, Mission Mangal and Badla, Taapsee begins her 2020 with Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad.
Thappad deals with the subject of domestic violence, but unlike what we have seen in popular Bollywood movies, here, the protagonist Amrita (Pannu) seeks divorce from her husband after he slaps her at a party.
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Taapsee Pannu spoke about Thappad, domestic violence, and what she wants the audience to take away from the film.
Here are excerpts from the conversation
Tell us about Thappad.
I think it’s a talking point. It’s a film that deals with a subject that’s been shoved under the carpet for the longest time. And which can make people feel either really uncomfortable or totally at comfort that finally, this is out in the open.
In a society like ours, women are expected to adjust on every front. We saw glimpses of that in the trailer as well where other characters are asking Amrita to adjust. Not just in terms of violence, otherwise too, women are expected to adjust everywhere. Have you experienced that?
All the time. I think it’s very normal in every woman’s life, be it me, you or anyone else. As simple as, you will be paid less, adjust with that because a woman-led film cannot have the budget to pay the leading actress as much as the man because it doesn’t collect as much money at the box office. You have to adjust with it.
Or you have to adjust with the fact that you have to change your lifestyle so you don’t get molested, and not the other way around where a man has to control himself. So yeah, these are adjustments that happen in day to day life of every woman. There’s nothing different if it’s me or if it’s anyone else.
I am guessing the shoot of this film must have been an overwhelming experience. Can you take us through that?
It was borderline torturous because I was claustrophobic in this character. It was very difficult because this issue is way too personal for me. Can’t really comment on why but yes, it is too personal.
Thirty-one days of being Amrita made me feel like I was gasping for breath sometimes. I wanted to react and stop it there. But Amrita being Amrita will not ask anyone to shut up. She will listen to everyone, analyze everything and still do what is right, without losing her mind and reacting impulsively.
Since the subject is about domestic violence, did you meet any survivors or people who have been through this kind of experience?
Three out of five women go through it. I think we have people around in the same room who have probably gone through it. It’s not that difficult to meet them or know them.
There is a misconception that domestic violence is a class-based issue. Do you think Thappad can start that conversation?
I hope it does. Because this was one of the things that we discussed primarily when we decided to make this film. This was not a ready script with Anubhav (Sinha) Sir unlike Mulk or Article 15. It was a discussion that happened during Mulk’s promotions that I told him that I wanted to do a film on this subject. He had an idea in mind because he felt equally strongly about it. So, immediately after Article 15 shooting got over, he gave me the script. That’s why this film is more special than a lot of other films, because of the way it originated.
If you are opening this kind of a subject in front of a community, say 500 people in a theater, after two hours of hearing it, you become a little comfortable in talking about it because you have come with your friends or your family. So that topic kind of becomes open in front of them. And you can discuss that further. This is what cinema can do. I am not saying a movie can change you, or your mindset, but can definitely help you start a discussion which I hope this film does.
Back when Pink came out, there was a small section of the audience that believed that it was preaching to the converted. How do you think Thappad tackles that?
I think people who have to find issues will find it in every film. I am not going to try to convert people who don’t have the ability to see things from a broader perspective. I wanted to show educated people their household going through this because it is happening. It’s not happening because of lack of education or money, it is just the patriarchal mindset at play that makes you believe that this is okay.
People who want to take out problems will take out problems in everything. It is anyway difficult to please a hundred per cent people so I am not going to try that.
What do you want the audience to walk away with after Thappad?
As I said, either they should be slightly uncomfortable looking back at what they have been doing or find a certain comfort to discuss this with their partner and sort things out if need be or change things if need be. Or just at least discuss. So it will be either a discomfort or comfort, there won’t be a midway. That’s what I hope they feel.