‘You think I’m mad.
Only mad become famous’
-Says the reel life PadMan during his speech at the United Nations in the movie. This weekend Mrs. Funnybones brought alive the roller coaster life journey of India’s menstrual man Arunachalam Muruganantham on-screen through a courageous and sincere venture called PadMan.
- Akshay Kumar (Lakshmikant Chauhan)
- Radhika Apte – (Gayatri Chauhan)
- Sonam Kapoor – (Pari Walia)
Director – R. Balki
Genre – Drama
Duration – 2hr 20 mins
The movie is partially based on the life of A. Muruganantham. A mechanic by profession, Lakshmikant Chauhan gets married to Gayatri. He’s concerned about her using dirty clothes during her five days of menstrual cycle. A practical and logical man by nature, he neither gives into the superstitious beliefs associated with menstruation nor is willing to let Gayatri get sick due to the unhygienic method of combating chums. So decides to purchase sanitary pads for her. The cost of 55 rupees per packet comes as a shocker for the simpleton Gayatri and she insists on returning it to the chemist. Lakshmi is flummoxed by the high pricing of such lightweight stuff. He starts experimenting with cotton and muslin cloth to create his own version of pads so that he can convince Gayatri to use them. After much coaxing, Gayatri agrees to try it out only to declare it as a leaking failure the following month. Lakshmi keeps experimenting with the raw materials but is unable to convince any lady to try it out for feedback. As a result of his last experiment on himself, people in the village labels him as a pervert with his family disowning him. His sisters are sent away, his wife is taken back to her maternal home and he leaves the village. The first half of the movie stays true to the story of the real PadMan. In the second half, Lakshmi moves to Indore with his mission of producing sanitary pads for making Gayatri’s life comfortable and disease free. He soon realizes that what he needs to invent is a pad making machine simplistically. A chance encounter with an engineering student who’s also a master tabla player (Pari) leads him to win an award for his innovation at the IIT. Instead of applying for a patent and making millions, he decides to use it for the betterment of the society. However the journey turns out to be full of roadblocks. Whether Lakshmi gets his due recognition and acceptance by the society and whether Gayatri and Lakshmi’s family moves beyond the taboo of shame is what is unveiled in the climax of the movie.
Statistics say that only 18% of Indian women use sanitary pads. The subject of menstruation is still meant to be hushed and shushed behind the closed doors. This is where the makers of the movie deserve a special applause for daring to think beyond the stereotypical mindset. The writers – R. Balki and Swanand Kirkire need to be praised for coming up with a story woven around a topic that is considered typically related to women and not worth speaking about. The film might seem to have gone overboard with the dramatization in the second half but it has its heart in the right place. Kudos to Mrs. FunnyBones for not only covering the life of A. Muruganantham through her book ‘The legend of LaxmiPrasad’ but also through a full-fledged movie.
The music of the movie is composed by Amit Trivedi and written by Kausar Munir. It is soothing to the ears. There are five songs that feature in the movie and they bring the correct tempo to the story.
Akshay Kumar has been setting the bar quite high with his choice of roles recently. As Lakshmikant, he is so endearing that the audience ends up wishing for a husband like him. There are moments in the movie like wearing a sanitary pad on a woman’s undergarment that leaves one wondering the amount of courage and conviction that might have been needed by a star of his stature to essay such scenes. Radhika Apte comes across as sincere and convincing. She brings out the conflict in her character effortlessly on-screen. Sonam Kapoor appears only in the second half of the movie. She is like a whiff of fresh air and comes across as charming and honest.
What could have been better:
There are few aspects that could have made the movie more appealing.
- The execution of the story – The first half at times get quite monotonous and seems to be harping about the same thing. An edited version could have trimmed out few scenes making it more crisper and fast paced. In the second, the film has been tweaked and dramatized to make the story more interesting to fit the bill. While the overall effect is entertaining, it feels a little over the top in an otherwise honest and grounded movie.
- The parallel plot of Pari and Lakshmi – Without divulging much details, I can only say that few scenes between the two actors were absolutely not needed leading to trivialization of the purpose and intent of the main character.
Barring these minor hiccups, this was a movie made with the right intent on an idea that deserves to be spoken about.
I would rate this movie
3.5 of 5
The extra 0.5 is for the initiative, courage and effort in making a movie on such an off-beat topic.
Social relevance :
The first time that I had seen the trailer of the movie, I had been incredibly proud of the producers, directors and actors to have even thought of making a movie on the subject of menstruation. It was the first time that I wrote about my experiences with the normal physiological monthly occurrence. Eventually there were many people who came forward to share their story and experiences. The movie had got us talking on a subject which was otherwise considered to be a women’s problem.
Few days back, a new challenge started trending on the internet where the celebrities took a picture of holding a sanitary pad. While it received some flak for being a publicity stunt associated with promotion of the movie, it was interesting to see a lot of women come ahead and post their pictures with a pad. I choose to give it a chance – if it helps in breaking orthodox mindsets, the trend is highly welcome.
During the course of the movie, the makers have also subtly touched upon the ‘make in India’ initiative, breaking gender discrimination and women empowerment through a couple of instances. Yet when one leaves the theater, that overwhelming feeling of pride/motivation/inspiration on seeing the story of a social entrepreneur is lost too soon. This is where PadMan misses out on creating a long – lasting impact. Despite starting in the right direction, creating the much-needed awareness and getting people to open up on this topic, the movie sways away from its destination by trying to abide by the rules of a Bollywood movie. The movie has had a remarkable world-wide release. What I am waiting to see is how soon will it reach its most deserving audience – those belonging to rural India. It is the effect there that will decide the qualitative success of this journey in the long run.