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Binge factor – 4 out of 5.
For those who have been eager to watch the movie, the delayed release of Pad Man seems to be worth the wait. And before we begin getting into the nitty-gritty of the movie itself, a good to know fact is that the movie is based on the life and times of an Indian innovator named Arunachalam Muruganantham.
He is the man who invented the machine capable of producing low-cost sanitary pads. His story has been previously shared by Twinkle Khanna, who is also the producer of the Pad Man, in her book titled ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’. In the book, there’s a short story “The Sanitary Man of Sacred Land” that is said to be the base of this movie.
Director R. Balki has yet again proved his knack for telling complex stories in a sweet and simple manner with ‘Pad Man’, after movies like ‘Cheeni Kum’, ‘English Vinglish’ and ‘Ki & Ka’. While Akshay’s previous social-issue oriented movie ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ was an uncomfortable watch of sorts for some, director Balki’s efforts seem to assure the same is not the case with ‘Pad Man’. The movie deals with the social issue with utmost grace and should not make the audience feel uncomfortable when watching it with other members of their family.
The movie starts with Lakshmikant Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) and Gayatri (Radhika Apte) tying the knot. A welder by profession, Lakshmikant Chauhan a.k.a Lakshmi is also an ideal husband who not only respects his wife but also cares immensely about her well-being and happiness. Everything is rainbows and sunshine for the two until Lakshmi discovers that his wife Gayatri uses a dirty piece of cloth during her periods. Being the loving and caring man he is, Lakshmi rushes to a medical store to purchase sanitary pads for his menstruating wife. His wife refuses to use them after seeing the price tag attached to it. This is when Lakshmi decides to take things into his own hands and make a sanitary pad that is safe for his wife to use. Failing miserably in his first attempt, Gayatri pleads her husband to stop in this ‘foolish’ pursuit of his. But, Lakshmi does not budge.
After a few days, Lakshmi returns home with an ‘upgraded’ version of his hand-made sanitary pad. Embarrassed and shocked by this, Gayatri refuses to support Lakshmi in his pad making adventures. She does not agree to test his hand-made sanitary pad. A disappointed and worried Lakshmi decides to approach other women for the same, and by doing so is only able to bring home for himself societal disgrace and a reputation of being eccentric.
To begin with, the issue of providing sanitary pads to menstruating women seems to be a financial one for rural Indian women. But it doesn’t take long to understand that poor financial conditions are coupled with a faulty mentality that such women have been brought up with. Their conditioning is such that they feel embarrassed to discuss menstrual hygiene, especially with men.
Customs such as keeping a menstruating lady outside the house is highlighted in the movie, which aptly takes righteous digs at the baseless mentality that considers a natural biological phenomenon amongst women to be ‘impure’ and ‘unholy’.
What starts as a social issue related movie, quickly turns into a handbook for aspiring entrepreneurs. Having a strong reason behind doing what he does, Lakshmi ventures into solving a wide-spread problem existing in rural India. What keeps him moving from failure to failure without losing faith is his Pari (Sonam Kapoor) and his oath to convert the disgrace he has brought to his family into pride and honour.
Lakshmi finally succeeds in his pad making quest after losing his family, village and ending up in debt. But he is still not able to sell a single sanitary pad until Pari (Sonam Kapoor) enters. Co-incidentally, she ends up being the ‘guinea pig’ to try Lakshmi’s handmade pad. The two then set on a journey together to take these low-cost sanitary napkins to women living in Indian villages. The two end up being successful in what they set foot for and go on to win accolades both nationally and internationally.
If there could be something to place our finger on saying this could have been done better, it has to be the casting of Sonam Kapoor’s father. The persona of ‘Sardarji’ isn’t exuded in a way that feels authentic, and we don’t blame the actor for it, this should have been noticed by the casting director.
With all that said, overall ‘Pad Man’ is a feel-good film with an important message that is delivered in the simplest way possible. This makes it a must watch for all those men and women who feel awkward listening to talks and discussions about menstrual hygiene or even at the mere public spotting of a sanitary pad.
The movie surely counts for a decent step taken towards breaking baseless beliefs, acting as psychological barriers, that have transformed a natural biological phenomenon into a tabooed topic of sorts.
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