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Thappad: Into the Abyss

Thappad: Into the Abyss
- Shivani Upadhyay, UPES, Dehradun

“It takes one woman to refuse to be a part of the endless cycle of tolerance, and call out normalized inequities for other women to wake up to the injustices in their own lives.”

‘Thappad’ is a story about a woman, Amrita, who is a housewife by profession and by choice. Her husband Vikram, is totally dependent upon her because she is responsible for taking care and looking after him, her mother in law and their whole house. She wakes up on the beep of an alarm, water the plants, harvests aromatic leaves, and makes ginger tea. She prepares breakfast for Vikram and her mother in law and serves it in their beds. She test’s her mother in law’s sugar levels and she makes sure to press the food and essentials into Vikram’s hands whenever he is in a rush to reach his office. She listen to her maid talking about her personal life about how the maid’s husband beats her up and that how helpless she is because she has nowhere else to go. She also gives dance lessons to her neighbour’s daughter. That is pretty much she does every day.

She is never bored by the monotony because firstly, it’s her choice and secondly, she believes that her husband loves her very much and would never do anything to hurt her until one day, Vikram slaps Amrita in front people who came to their house to celebrate Vikram’s promotion. Vikram received a bad news from work and was yelling at a collegue when Amrita tries to stop him from getting violent, which she thought she had a right to as his wife and his partner. It was when Vikram slaps Amrita and Amrita realises that she wants a divorce irrespective of Vikram’s efforts for the next few days to make up for his mistake.

The idea of the movie was to make people realise that not only lower class people (the maid’s husband) feels entitled to hit their wives but also the educated and privileged ones take their wives for granted inflicting harassment and violence upon them and on the contrary, they respect their sisters and mothers.
So now the question that arises is, whether Amrita has the right to seek divorce or separation merely because of a slap? While it is true that in India, many women would not choose to get separated from their husbands merely because of a slap because they compromise with the situation. Sometimes, these women, give in themselves so that their husbands takes out their aggression and feel better. In this process, women lose their self-respect and their integrity.


The aftermath of the incident of being slapped by Vikram infront of so many people makes Amrita realise that she doesn’t love her husband anymore. Other people including her mother in law keeps telling her that she is stubborn but she refuses to lift her ground. It is not a surprise that women are conditioned by family members and society to be accepting of abuse which may either be subtle or violent. For a woman, even one slap is a slap of realisation. Everything starts getting clearer. Her wilful participation in the patriarchy, putting others’ needs over her own and sacrificing her interests for her family. 

That one slap made Amrita realise to what she woke up every day. Like every other woman, a thought lingered in her mind about the investment she is making in her marriage as opposed to the investment Vikram makes in his business. Amrita was expected to understand Vikram’s commitment to the company and his goals was accepted and that slap was merely was a reflection of his annoyance after a failure. A house wife’s work is to look after her husband’s needs, but the question is who will take care of her needs and her demand for love affection?

That one slap, was the reason for Amrita’s breakdown. It was also the reason for her mother’s silent lessons of tolerance and her mother in law’s wrong doings which she shunned. Women in patriarchy are dependent, emotional, vulnerable, weak, pliant, empathetic and supportive. One slap can make a woman realise of the things she had been doing for her husband without asking for anything in return. 
Lastly, even one slap is enough for the woman to seek separation and to opt out of the relationship. It is her choice. It is the fact that two people try to mend their relationship after such an event, but it is also important to acknowledge that when one believes in repairing, the other one believes that it’s broken beyond repair. 


Contested divorce in India can be sought in the court only upon satisfaction of certain legally accepted ‘grounds’ enumerated under law. Such grounds are exhaustive.

Under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the grounds for divorce include: 
•Voluntary Sexual intercourse with any person other than the spouse;
•Dissertion, which should be continuous for a period of not less than 2 years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
•Ceas(ing) to be Hindu by conversion to another religion; and
•Being incurably of unsound mind.

In addition, Section 13B provides for “divorce by mutual consent”. However, the unfortunate reality in this case is that just one slap at the party cannot be a ground for a divorce. The courts have made it clear that such an ill conduct has to be for a fairly lengthy period which could them be amounted as ‘cruelty’.  The Court has also said that a single act of cruelty will not be a sufficient reason for divorce and there must be a course of cruel conduct over a period of time. 


A Fault Divorce is when the spouse seeking divorce has to establish a fault, i.e. Cruelty, Dissertation, etc. on the part of the other person. Whereas, a No Fault Divorce enables the spouse to obtain divorce simply on the basis of irreconcilable differences, incompatibility of immediate collapse. It is sometimes equated to divorce through mutual consent.

The 71st Report on The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 suggested insertion of Section 13C for divorce on the ground of Irretrievable breakdown of marriage. 217th Report of the Law Commission, the government is further urged to make certain amendments to introduce the same. The Marriage Law (Amendment) Bill, 2010 was introduced by the UPA Government but failed to clear in the Lower House of the parliament. The bill enabled both the spouses to file for divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, however it granted the wife to oppose the petition on the ground of hardship. There is a need for the court to recognise No- Fault Marriage.


A thappad is a slap on our society’s beliefs. Inequities in relationship has been passed through generations and has been deeply rooted and conditioned within our families and social fabrics in a way that they have become invisible and normalised. All it takes is one woman, like Amrita to break the cycle of this normalised injustice. Every other woman derives realisation and courage when their conscience has been slapped, and it is high time that women start breaking the shackles of ‘tolerance’ and ‘chauvinism’ and fight the injustice while enjoying what is rightfully theirs. 

Patriarchy and domestic violence is an unfortunate equaliser in different segments and classes of the population. It is manifested differently in different classes. What we need to understand is that even one slap can be turned out to be an eye opener. It can draw attention to everything that is unfairly compromised in a marriage and to all those things which the woman has been ignoring since a very long time.

Thus, even one slap can violate the personal dignity of a woman. It might not swell up the face of the woman but would definitely deflate her self-respect and show where she stands in the society. And in between all of this, she would still have the right to seek separation from her husband either on the ground of mutual consent or a No- Fault Marriage.

References :- 

1)Salai Varun, ‘Can you file for divorce over \'just a slap\' in India? A legal view on Thappad’, The News Minute, (May 18, 2020),,\'%20or%20\'irremediable%20collapse\'.
2)The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, S. 13
3)The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, S. 13B,
4)Diva Rai, ‘Divorce Law in India’, (August 18, 2019),
5)71st Law Commission report, The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage as a ground of Divorce
6)217th Law Commission report, Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage- Another Ground of Divorce.