It is certainly appreciable that Indian films are choosing topics of social taboo and Pad Man is the latest one which talks about women’s menstrual hygiene and their need to use sanitary pads. In our country, menstruating women are treated as outcast on these days and barred from entering temples and kitchens, it is a matter of debate, since it deals with belief system of many. So, it is a welcome change, when efforts are being made to talk about such topics of societal taboo and what best media other than a film to deal with such paradigm shift needed.
Pad Man is a film which is inspired from the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu). He is the inventor of low-cost sanitary pad-making machine. His innovative grassroot mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation has done wonders for women in rural India. He has not commercialized his mini machines which can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, rather he has chosen to sell it to self-help groups run by women. As per Wikipedia, these mini machines have been installed in 23 of 29 states of India, and he is planning to expand the production of these machines to 106 nations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arunachalam_Muruganantham)
Along with many awards conferred on him, he was included in Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2014 and also Padma Shri in 2016 by Government of India.
One thing which is to be noted is that Pad Man, as it is claimed by the makers, is not the first film on Arunachalam. Amit Virmani has made a documentary ‘Menstrual Man’, Abhishek Saxena made Phullu (2017) and there is another unreleased film “I-Pad” made in 2015 by Amit Rai. Twinkle Khanna had come out with ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad” – a collection of four stories in 2016, out of which one story is “The Sanitary Man of Sacred Land” on which Pad Man is supposed to be based on. Of course, more the films on these subjects, it is good so as to create more and more awareness amongst people and get rid of taboo. So, Pad Man by R. Balki with Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte in the lead is successful in creating the right buzz.
R Balki has chosen to give fictional names to his protagonists Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte and also he has picked up the backdrop of Bhopal rather than Coimbatore. R Balki and Swanand Kirkire as writers does mention the statistics as well in the film that only 12% of women in India use sanitary pads. They have kept the tone of the film very light without making it preachy. Sensibilities of the audience is taken into consideration. The emotions of the females, the belief system of considering oneself unsacred during menstruating days, not entering Kitchen / temples, the celebration (almost like mini-wedding) when a girl matures and the confusion of male fraternity are very well captured in the screenplay. Even the medical shop person selling the sanitary pad as if he is selling something illegal is very much relatable. What could have been avoided in the film is the love dynamics explored between Sonam Kapoor and Akshay Kumar, it appeared very cliché and displaced.
Lakshmikant Chauhan (Akshay) works in a welding factory. His sharp eye for details and fixing up things is evident from the very beginning of the film. He finds it very disturbing when he sees his wife Gayathri (Radhika Apte) using dirty clothes during her periods. In spite of Gayathri asking Lakshmi to stay out of ladies’ problems, he does try his hand in making sanitary pads. His initial attempts fail miserably. What he finds it even more challenging is to get the pad tested. He makes desperate attempts to get the client, family, acquaintances etc. for his product but in vain. He is branded as eccentric, pervert and he ends up risking everything he has – his wife, family, home, village, social status etc. But nothing deters him from going ahead with his experimentation.
It was a loner’s journey for Lakshmi, but his go-getter attitude gives him slow yet steady success and that is how he invents low-cost sanitary pad-making machine. Another major challenge in front of Lakshmi was to get the buy-in for the pads from the women and that is when Pari (Sonam Kapoor), a young talented Tabla Player and MBA student, enters the scene. She not only becomes his first client but later on also becomes instrumental in creating user-base and roping in self-help groups run by women.
The film has many high points be it Lakshmi’s undying spirit to not accept defeat and continue with his experimentation, his genuine concern for wife and female hygiene, Lakshmi and Gayathri’s chemistry, Lakshmi’s efforts in managing to get the things one –by-one to invent the low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing machine, his ‘Linglish speech’ in United Nations, Amitabh Bachchan’s cameo etc.
The cast of the film perfectly fit into their respective characters very well. Akshay Kumar is effortless while playing Lakshmikant, he downplays himself wherever required. Radhika Apte is gorgeous as Gayathri and she has projected the shame associated with even discussing menstruation very well. Sonam Kapoor as Pari is good and gregarious. The best thing is writers R Bali and Swanand Kirkire has justified the presence of every character, even if it is a small role. Rakesh Chaturvedi as Professor is one such character, though has a small role, he becomes a reason for Lakshmi’s shift in focus from making low-cost sanitary pads to inventing low-cost sanitary pad making machine.
Balki’s Pad Man inspired from Arunachalam Muruganantham’s life showcases realistic performances from Akshay and Radhika and the film succeeds in dealing with a topic of societal taboo like menstrual hygiene with very much ease and finesse. It hits the bulls eye as far as enhancing social consciousness is concerned and it is bound to leave the ripples of cultural transformation for a very long time. Yes, we can announce confidently – India ke paas apna Superhero Pad Man hai.
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
Cast and Crew Details: Source – Wikipedia Page
Cast: Akshay Kumar (Lakshmikant Chauhan), Radhika Apte (Gayatri), Sonam Kapoor (Pari), Rakesh Chaturvedi (Professor), Amitabh Bachchan
Directed by: R Balki
Produced by: Twinkle Khanna, SPE Films India, KriArj Entertainment, Cape of Good Films, Hope Productions
Written by: R Balki
Based on: The legend of Lakshmi Prasad by Twinkle Khanna
Narrated by: Amitabh Bachchan
Music: Amit Trivedi
Cinematography: PC Sreeram
Edited by: Chandan Arora
Production Company: Columbia Pictures, Hope Productions, KriArj Entertainment, Mrs. Funnybones Movies
Distributed By: Soni Pictures
Release Date: 9th February, 2018
Duration: 2 hours and 20 minutes