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Movie Review: PadMan



Pad Man is a fictionalised account of the life of Arunnachalam Murganatham. The rural innovator understood that only a meagre percentage of women in India use sanitary pads and went on to create a low-cost process for making sanitary napkins. Today, women cooperatives across India use his technology to make low cost sanitary products. In 2014, Time magazine included him as one of the 100 most influential people across the world. In 2016, The Indian government awarded him with a Padma Shri. Thanks to his efforts, the century old norms associated with menstruation and menstrual hyegine are slowly being questioned at the grassroots level.

There has already been an excellent documentary made on Arunnachalam’s life. What director R Balki has done is to make a Bollywood version of the pioneer’s struggles. The first half, which has lots of interaction between Laxmikant (Akshay Kumar) and his wife Gayatri (Radhika Apte) flows like a breeze. Though he looks twice her size, there is real chemistry between Akshay and Radhika. Their interactions breathes life into the film.

Radhika brings out the nuances of rural housewife who despite being in love with her husband can’t bring herself to let go of age-old norms. There is a certain stigma attached to periods and the actress brings it to the fore quite nicely. She can’t comprehend why her husband is so concerned about something which by and large is seen as a woman’s ‘problem’.

The incomprehension on her part and his need to prove his love to her provides the drama to the narrative. Love moves mountains as they say and it takes Laxmikant on a quest to make a low cost sanitary pad making machine. Another woman, Rhea (Sonam Kapoor), helps him market his product to women and take it up globally. Balki has shown the suave urban girl falling for the bhola bhala villager and the use of this old, old trope somewhat jars the film’s narrative.

Sonam and Akshay look good together on screen and should sign another film pronto. She’s playing a modern girl who wants to be more than another corporate drone, and essays the role effortlessly.

Akshay Kumar has embodied the spirit of Arunnachalam Murganatham. It’s a very sincere effort. His speech towards the end, though long, is straight from the heart. You feel you’re watching someone with genuine concern for women and not just an actor going through the paces.

Cinematography by PC Sriram is excellent and beautifully captures rustic Madhya Pradesh locales. Dialogue by Swanand Kirkire add punch to the story. What the film has done is to bring a taboo subject out in the open. Men still behave as if periods don’t exist and a large number of women still don’t have access to sanitary pads. Let’s hope the film helps bring about a change in both the scenarios…


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