Pad Man: R Balki does justice to a topic as serious as menstrual hygiene

Pad Man is a landmark in Indian films in the sense that none of the mainstream films has ever mentioned periods before, leave aside an entire film focused on it

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Pragati Saxena & Supriya Nidhi

Pad Man, a commercial film on menstrual hygiene, is a landmark in Indian films. None of the mainstream films have ever mentioned periods before, leave aside an entire film focused on it.

The film is based on the real-life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented a machine for producing low-cost, environment friendly sanitary napkins, which is a revolutionary invention for providing those Indian rural women with hygienic napkins, who are forced by poverty to use dirty clothes and even grass and leaves for the purpose.

The film’s promotional campaign has already made the term menstrual hygiene popular in Indian social media. Nevertheless, this campaign makes us wonder, why waste so many napkins in promoting a film when you can really help a lot of women by distributing them free of cost!

Akshay Kumar portrays the character of Lakshmi, a welder who is deeply in love with his wife Gayatri. He is upset when he sees his wife using dirty rags as napkins during her periods and embarks on a challenging journey of inventing a sanitary napkin vending machine. There are many social blocks he comes across—the block of ‘sharm’ (embarrassment), when his beautiful wife says that women in India ‘prefer to die of disease, instead of a shame’; of the taboos related to menstruation; of the sexist attitude of men towards this biological phenomenon; of woman’s own lackadaisical attitude towards it when his own wife does not buy a ₹55 napkin to save money but has no qualms in spending ₹51 in a temple. He finally succeeds in his mission and his wife and a woman friend Pari (Sonam Kapoor) help in spreading his message and the napkins.

The film also talks about women’s empowerment and making women self-dependent through small incidents.

For example, Lakshmi helps a victim of domestic violence in becoming self-dependent. As a whole, the film looks beautiful because of its excellent cinematography which adds charm to the message it carries.

Of late, Akshay has started doing socially relevant films and has earned both praise and money. But his character in Pad Man also has some very apparent shades of his character in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, and at these times the portrayal seems to be lacking in originality. He has an impressive screen presence, of course, but it would be better if he starts pairing with a little older actresses. Radhika Apte is excellent in the wife’s role. Sonam Kapoor(Pari) doesn’t do anything worth mentioning as an MBA student-turned-social worker who helps Akshay in his mission. The abrupt kiss and unnecessary romantic sub-plot between Lakshmi and Pari does not work at all.

The film belongs to Akshay Kumar. As an actor, he has matured, and the story too belongs to him only. The noble intention of the film is worth praising. It is a bold effort by Bollywood industry to take up the subject for a commercial film. Besides being entertaining, the film should be watched for its intentions.

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Published: 09 Feb 2018, 6:03 PM