(Spoiler Alert: This piece contains spoilers for 'A Thursday')
(Trigger warning: Mentions of sexual assault, rape)
The thriller suspense movie, A Thursday released on Disney+ Hotstar on 17 February. The film surfaces some disturbing yet deliberately sidelined issues around mental and physical violence against women, along with the everyday struggles of women to merely exist in their chosen public spaces.
It sharply shows how estranged women are in this world and how they keep resisting through their own means and capacities. We’ll discuss this through the three main characters in the movie.
Naina Jaiswal, The Playschool Teacher
Naina (played by Yami Gautam) takes her 16 students, along with a driver and her domestic help, hostage in her home-cum-playschool and puts forward a demand of Rs 5 crore, asks for two people to be found, and a face-to-face conversation with the Prime Minister.
This comes as a shock for everyone who knew her to be perpetually sweet and caring in nature. Later it is disclosed that she was sexually assaulted, at the age of 16, on her school bus on her birthday. Since then, she was under treatment for the mental trauma from the abuse. For years, her mother kept banging the doors of the police station for justice but their case was ignored because of some other ongoing high-profile cases. She, then, also loses her father.
Naina also lost her sense of bodily safety. She started hating her birthday and made sure she never celebrated it again. Fear became ingrained in her body. Even when her fiancé hugged her, she had to take some time to realise that she is safe. With all struggles, she was facing mentally and physically, she was deeply saddened by the realisation that her culprits are still roaming around free.
Carrying all this baggage, she goes ahead to earn a law degree. Years later, suddenly, the man who assaulted her appears in front of her holding the hand of her student and introduced himself as the kid’s new driver. Naina couldn’t get a grip on her senses and also feared for the kid since she didn’t wish for her to undergo the same fate.
Hence, she made this plan- to make people listen, to highlight the issue and to shake the sleeping system. For this ordeal, she was arrested and punished and in jail too, she kept teaching.
Maya Rajguru, The Prime Minister
Throughout the movie, Maya Rajguru (Dimple Kapadia) struggles to keep her back straight and her feel upright. Time and again we can see her advisors along with the other ministers trying to make her work according to the so-called protocols and election needs, but she chooses to work from her heart, empathetically.
When Naina demands to have a telephonic call with her, the associates advise her to do otherwise but she takes the call. Later when Naina demanded to meet up, the advisors deny it without asking, discussing or informing Rajguru and even ask for a police operation against the same.
However, Rajguru questions the audacious behaviour of deciding on her behalf without her knowledge and goes ahead to meet Naina to ensure minimum loss to lives and damage.
At one instance, Rajguru was criticised by an advisor for letting her feelings get the better of her ‘because she is a woman’ to which she fiercely replies, “Emotions can be an asset. You’ll learn with age. And don’t you ever override me. I’m not a puppet!”
She can be seen empathising with Naina while talking to her as a woman and promises her that she will raise the issue in the parliament, which she does.
Catherine Alvarez, The Cop
Alvarez (played by Neha Dhupia) struggles to find a firm footing in the operation and was looked down on for being pregnant as well as for being ambitious, by her subordinate, Javed, who also happens to be her ex-husband.
Javed can be seen either not following her orders or behaving in a demeaning fashion around her. Even their head officer sends her for the groundwork while giving charge of the operation to Javed. Meanwhile, she is questioned by her husband for cancelling her appointment with the doctor and she tells him that she can’t compromise with her work.
However, despite being in a physically challenging position, Alvarez does her duty with all her might and strength, supports the operation team with the required information and also catches one of the people Naina had named, well before time.
The movie highlights the almost made invisible sense of not belonging that women feel in public spaces, be it their school buses, or the PMO! Even after achieving a certain significant position or authority, women have to time and again face objections, at every step they need to reprove themselves and any deviation from the masculine sense of approach is seen as weak, inappropriate and unwanted.
Other important issues which the movie raised were, delayed or denied justice for women and stigma against mental health issues. As per the NCRB report, a rape happened every 16 minutes in India in 2019. And the statistics only recorded the reported cases. Innumerable women and children go through unimaginable trauma while our world functions smoothly side by side with eyes and ears shut.
What Naina did was wrong but her reasons for her actions hold significant ground.
(This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)