I watched this phenomenal Indian movie (Thappad) yesterday and I've since been inundated with a rollercoaster of emotions. Usually, when I watch movies of this nature where my sense of justice and fairness is offended, the activist in me rises and I am fit to be tied.
This time, though, activism took a backseat to intense sadness and melancholy. Thappad (translated The Slap) is a movie about a young housewife who gets slapped by her husband during their house party and decides to divorce him. Sounds rather extreme, right? It was after all a one-time offense and just a slap.
I mean, they seemed relatively happy together. There were no tensions, discord, or undercurrents of discontent between them before that slap. In fact, the slap wasn't because of any argument they had. It just happened that the husband had been involved in an altercation with his superior at the party and the wife trying to get him away and to calm down, receives a slap in front of guests as her reward. After days had passed and unable to get over it, she decides to end her marriage.
I am not here to argue about the rightness or wrongness of her decision. You should watch the movie yourself and decide. But you know what really saddened me?
It was the fact that everyone and I mean EVERYONE around her expected her to move on after the incident.
It was just a slap, they said.
You can't end your marriage because of that.
You are being unreasonable.
This was the first time he did it.
He won't do it again.
Image courtesy of @taapsee
On and on, the pressure was on her to suck it up and move on. Not once was the husband held accountable for his actions: not by his parents, in-laws, or friends. The only person who told him to his face that he was wrong was the same boss whom he had the altercation with. And of course, dear entitled hubby didn't deem it fit to apologize. It was all about him: his pain, goals, dreams, yadda yadda yadda. The jerk had the effrontery to complain to his father-in-law (a man who witnessed his daughter's humiliation and fell sick because of it) that his wife was overreacting over such a trivial matter.
Yes, he called the slap trivial.
Everyone was quick to point out to the woman the responsibility she had to "save" her marriage, how it was her duty to endure for the sake of her husband and kids. One statement she made that resonated with me was this, “He cannot hit me. Just a slap? He cannot slap me.”
I stared at the screen long after the credits had rolled and I couldn't stem the questions that arose in my mind. Do you know what for me was the saddest part of the reality outlined in this movie? The fact that we (women) are the enablers of these treatments meted out to us. The cancer that is this ideology is one that has been passed down from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to daughter to fetus. It's a disease that has eaten deep into our psyche that any deviation from the norm is attacked as an aberration.
Who did this to us?
What manner of brainwashing have we been subjected to all our lives that we accept abuse, however slight, as our due?
Who fed us the lie that the survival of our marriages rests solely or at least a huge percentage of the time on us?
Did we make the vows alone?
Did we conceive the children alone?
Do love and tolerance reside in our bosom alone?
Is filial devotion our sole forte?
Where did we end up buying into the delusion that marriage is the altar upon which our dreams and happiness will be sacrificed; that our lot is to tolerate, compromise and suppress our true essence for the sake of our husbands and kids?
So he cheats, beats, abuses, makes demands that satisfy his whims;
And we suppress and suppress and suppress.
Because, hey, marriage is the be-all and end-all of our existence; the only purpose for which we were created—a help meet for the man.
God forbid that there should be more to us that is not subject to this higher calling.
This is not a gender war; so sheath your swords, please.
And, I beg you, don't you dare come here and tell me nonsense about how a woman is a nurturer or natural homemaker or whatever excuse we use to justify her belittlement and subjugation.
I believe in the sanctity of marriage, believe me, I do.
But you know what I've come to realize—it takes two to maintain that sanctity.
That is why I salute Amu's decision in Thappad.
I hail her courage in making such a difficult choice, in breaking free of age-old lies and declaring that there is no justification whatsoever or tolerance for abuse.
And you know the amazing thing? her decision gave the other women around her the courage to stand up for themselves. The same women who had hitherto bought into these lies realized they were worth more and didn't need anyone's permission to be wholly free. And by God, I pray more of us women awaken to this revolution.
Men and women, we all need to reboot together.
This amazing film was directed by Anubhav Sinha, with stellar performances by Taapsee Pannu who plays the housewife (Amu) and her on-air husband Vikram portrayed by Pavail Gulati. The movie is currently streaming on Prime Video.
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About The Author: Shirley Ogbonna is a written word artist and an unpretentious women activist. She believes words are both a sword and a balm and is passionate about creating change and making an impact through the pen. She has worked as a content manager, transcriber, and editor; and she is currently fully immersed in building a career in creative writing.
When she's not ghostwriting to earn a living, or journaling about everything from women's right to her favorite natural hairstyle, you would find her face stuck within the pages of a good novel or binge watching k-drama series.
Shirley Ogbonna is a graduate of Law from the University Of Lagos, Nigeria, and currently resides in Lagos, Nigeria.
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