Bollywood has given us several superhero movies. Some that were box-office hits but absolutely mediocre like Krishh and some that were horrible in every sense such as Ra.One. Padman, a movie based on the real-life inspiration Arunachalam Muruganantham, a man who shot to fame because of his cheap machine that made sanitary pads for costs as low as two rupees. Though there are a few glitches that disturbed me, I loved the entire 140 minutes of the movie.
The entire movie surprisingly held a steady pace. Unlike what some would assume, the script of the film managed to be funny and at the same time hit all the right nails of our society. Lakshmikant, when he saw his wife use a dirty old rag during her menstruations, he was appalled by it as he would not even use the rag to clean his bicycle. He could not imagine how a woman could possible want to put such a thing near her genitalia, which is easily prone to several diseases. His love for his new bride made him buy sanitary pad that was way too expensive for a man with his livelihood. Akshay Kumar, who played the role of the protagonist, was kind, compassionate and hard-working who would not budge from his agenda: Menstrual Hygiene for all women. Radhika Apte, with her pragmatism, played her part of the wife who was torn between backing up Lakshmikant’s fight and fighting societal shame.
The movie bore hard truths of the lower-middle and lower class mentality that was so foreign for lot of us urbaners. In an age where out brothers and fathers freely buy women pads, the thought of even talking about periods was a topic of shame for Gayatri to even her husband. While Lakshmikant fought tooth and nail with the society about women wearing pads, Gayatri, his sisters and his mother themselves refused to stand behind him and thought of him as a pervert who became this way due to some kind of demonic possession. The neighbors would shun him for trying to give a little girl some of his pads to try as they saw this as an act of shame and blasphemy against womanhood at the same level as rape.
The struggles that Muruganantham originally faced were well portrayed. The desperation to help the women an the devastation due to the failure was so well portrayed, that I found my heart sinking whenever Lakshmikant failed to make his ‘fine pad’. This movie was probably one of his best acting ventures. After Airlift, Akshay Kumar successfully held his place in our hearts for his passionate acting and his will to go the extra mile. Now we have all heard of actors breaking bones and getting injured, but the thought of an actor wearing pink ladies undergarments with a pad stuck on it, and dousing himself with chicken blood is unheard of. These extra miles that the director and actors went, gave the move a much realistic touch and a stain in our minds that we would be remembering for a long time and in a good way. Lakshmikant’s well placed obssession was continuously shunned by his family and society as it was ‘auraton ki baat’ and no man should ever think about it. It was ironical how all through the movie, the women were found suffering and yet it was the women who stigmatized this situation.
The movie skimmed over a large number of social stigmas. From chhaupadi, to ‘men should not cry’, the movie gave it all, and frankly while this is an honest attempt to break through barriers, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the problems and yet felt that the main motive was somehow missed. While we are aware of a lot of pseudonyms that periods have, but ‘5-day test match’ is one that I have never heard personally. But I am sure there are a lot many nick-names that boys shamelessly use to indicate menstruation in women. It was heartbreaking to see women celebrate the coming-of-age of a girl in private but at the same time wince at the syllable of periods. So it was ‘women’s problem’ all through the movie.
[Also read: Menstruation And Menstrual Taboo ]
Though Padman is a movie that would change the Bollywood industry for the better, I still felt that the main point was still missing. Menstrual hygiene and education about sanitary pads are all well, but what about the fact that menstruation is not ACTUALLY a problem? Akshay, his character was vocal about how women do not have access to these sanitary hygiene products, but what about the fact that the women are not even supposed to talk about these to bring about their education? I feel the movie could have made a massive impact on how people saw periods. At the end of the movie, periods still seemed like an ‘impure’ affair; only now it was a hygienic ‘impure’ affair. While in urban areas, usage of pads and tampons are more common, people still sneer and joke about menstruation. Even in a metro city, there were hoots and laughs in a well known multiplex whenever a pad was flashed or periods were mentioned. It really made me sad that till date, men would laugh at a woman for having her periods.
Sonam Kapoor was a refreshing change in the suffocating tone of the movie. She was a smart, independent girl of the modern world, for whom talking about menstruation is as normal as talking about her father’s culinary skills. Somewhere, the spark between her and Lakshmi at the end was predictable and needless, Bollywood directors just have to put some masala and filmi-ness for the movie to shoot up the box-office.
The movie has surprised me by not having too many song-sequences of the city dancing in unison(shockingly knowing the same routine to perfection). I would not change the direction and edition for anything, except for putting weight in the more important messages. This movie is a must watch for all people of this country, young and old. I would definitely give a thumbs up and rate the movie an 8/10.
Watch the trailer: