Director: R. Balki
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte, Sonam Kapoor
Akshay Kumar is on a roll. The star, whom many still unfairly consider a rung below the Khans, has delivered the maximum number of hits in recent years. More importantly, besides the routine box-office-pleasing Masala movies, he has regularly picked up tough films with social conscience. His last blockbuster Toilet-Ek Premkatha was one such film dealing with the lack of home toilets in rural India, an age-old practice which forces people to defecate out in the open. This time he presents yet another taboo theme- lack of menstrual hygiene in majority of Indian women!
What’s the plot?
A small town mechanic (Akshay Kumar) is a loving husband and a resourceful man. To keep his wife (Radhika Apte) happy, he would do anything. Making smart contraptions to ease his wife’s chores has become his hobby. He is appalled when he sees his wife using a dirty soaking cloth during her menses. When his wife chides him for bringing expensive branded sanitary napkins and reminds him that she is just following an age-old household practice, he starts thinking about making the cheaper pads himself.
Soon this idea becomes his sole obsession, making him a subject of shame and ridicule in the town. Even his own family, including the bewildered wife, now abandons him. Despite all the setbacks, he keeps trying different methods to make affordable sanitary pads, which would offer safe menstrual hygiene to all women. It takes a modern, city-bred girl, (Sonam Kapoor), an MBA to boot, to finally understand and nurture his passion. With her support and encouragement, he would finally accomplish his dream. He succeeds in making an indigenous machine assembly to make safe and effective sanitary pads at a fraction of the usual cost. The ingenious invention would not just bring him international laurels, but by sparking off a cottage industry, it would also provide livelihood to many under-privileged women!
The inspiring story inspired by the real life exploits of Arunachalam Muruganantham needed to be told to the whole world, and R.Balki and Swanand Kirkire have done a splendid job of making a screenplay out of it. Through some intelligent scenes and dialogues, they highlight the rural India’s closed, conservative mindset, which refuses to change with times and remains deeply entrenched in some meaningless age-old diktats.
Akshay Kumar plays the central character with effortless ease. He is both, likeable as well as convincing in portraying a simple man driven by a lofty dream, who despite being shunned by the most, tirelessly keeps working towards achieving his goal. His tears of joy after getting a positive ‘Pheedback’ and his ‘Linglish’ speech at the UN are scenes that linger on in memory.
Sonam Kapoor, who makes a late entry, delivers a feisty performance as the city-girl who plays the Good Samaritan. The tender bond between her and the ‘Padman’ comes across nicely.
Radhika Apte brings to life the uneducated, tradition-bound wife, who simply cannot fathom her husband’s strange fascination for sanitary pads and menstrual cycles!
The side-cast does a fine supportive act.
Music is catchy.
The second half feels a bit too lengthy and at times, preachy.
Even in today’s modern world, menstruation and sanitary pads are mostly taboo topics. The patriarchal societal norms have labelled menstruation as some kind of a dirty, impure process. Forget the dogmatic religious institutes, even in many so-called normal households a menstruating woman is still made into an untouchable, who is barred from participating any daily activity till menses are over!
Padman not only highlights the need for better menstrual hygiene through affordable sanitary pads; it also challenges these senseless archaic traditions. To give this strong message to public is important but to do it sensibly and sensitively through a mass entertainer is simply priceless.
Kudos to Akshay Kumar, R. Balki and their team for making this film! And a thousand salutes to the real ‘Padman’ Arunachalam Muruganantham….one simply cannot imagine what obstacles he must have overcome to achieve what he has achieved! Because of such ‘mad’ men humanity has progressed!