The Indian Kaleidoscope : Pad Man (2018) – Menstruation is normal.

I have been dying to do a review on this film, not because I loved this film but because I wanted to talk about how normal menstruation is. To some people it would seem absurd that I need to say it out loud maybe because it is more accepted or not considered taboo in other cultures. The story is different in India, but hopefully its a story that’s changing as well and what better way to talk about than while reviewing a movie that’s all about menstruation and menstrual hygiene! So here goes-

You can listen to the full soundtrack on Spotify as you read the review. My favourite tracks are The Pad Man Song and Hu Ba Hu – I’ve linked the YouTube links for the individual songs.

Promotional release poster

Title : Pad Man

Country of origin : India

Language : Hindi

Directed by : R Balki

Written by : R Balki and Swanand Kirkire

Cinematography : P C Sriram

Based on : The life of Arunachalam Murugananthan

Starring : Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Radhika Apte

Music : Amit Trivedi

Production companies : Columbia Pictures, SPE Films India, Hope Productions, KriArj Entertainment, Mrs Funnybones movies

Distribution : Sony Pictures Releasing

Release Date : 9 February 2018

Duration : 140 minutes

Genre : Family, Drama, Humor, Societal Awareness

Akshay Kumar as Laxmi Kant Chauhan (whose character is based on Arunachalam Murugananthan)

The story is based on Lakshmikant and his marriage with his wife Gayatri. He is unaware why his wife stays away from him while she is on her period and is horrified to see the dirty rag that his wife uses for her period.

He later buys her sanitary napkins but his wife berates him it’s too expensive to be included in their expenses. However he ends up using it when a man gets into an accident and comes to know from a doctor that it is the most hygienic solution for a period.

Radhika Apte as Gayatri

The story then follows Lakshmikant and his journey on developing affordable sanitary napkins.

However the journey isn’t easy as he faces societal stigma for dwelling into the matters of “women”, from his own family, village and to most people he tries to convince on his new product. His life changes when he meets Pari Walia.

Sonam Kapoor as Pari Walia

Now this movie did start a revolution (which was already in motion, it’s just that it gained more popularity after the movie) and to understand why it was considered so, we need to understand how menstruation is perceived in India.

It’s mostly considered to be a taboo, embarrassing or “impure” and is a topic that is not welcome to be discussed openly in a family, let alone in public. Not only do women have to do a secret spy mission to get a napkin from another woman, but they can’t even buy sanitary napkins from a medical store without side eye glances which leads us to wrapping up the packet in newspaper and a black cover. Different families treat women differently during this time of the month, with minor things like they’re not to meant to touch “pickles” to more serious kinds where the woman has to isolate herself completely for a week.

In this scenario, making a film and a subsequent social media campaign (where people pose with a pad and post their pictures on social media, because it’s normal and has to be accepted), with the real life story of a man who did the impossible was expected greatly.

The situation in rural India is even worse with most women reusing dirty rags that lead to severe complications and illness. That’s where Arunachalam Murugananthan (the man on whose life this movie is based upon), came in and developed a machine on making low cost sanitary napkins and spreading its awareness in rural India. It was a HUGE game changer considering how dangerous the lack of awareness on it, was.

In that sense this movie delivered the story perfectly. Although many laughed at the idea of a film coming out on this topic, it was also well loved by the audience. A lot of us who live in better financial circumstances consider other taboos the problem when the biggest problem in India was the lack of access to sanitary and affordable napkins itself.

We felt saddened at the times he faltered and we cheered when he succeeded, it really took us on an emotional train along with the main character on whom the entire film revolves around. There was a certain amount of humor as well and although I feared that it might throw the movie out of balance or decrease the seriousness that’s needed for a biographical film, thankfully it managed it well.

There were a slew of supporting characters – mostly women in the form of his wife, mother, sisters, the women he tried to sell the pads to, Pari, etc and they all did their roles well but it is undeniable that the majority of the film rested on Akshay Kumar’s shoulders which he delivered well.

The setting and situations around rural India also felt apt, and accurate.

My favourite part in the movie would definitely be when ge delivered a speech at a world conference, sure he’s not Shakespeare but he delivered his message loud and clear – it isn’t possible to deliver it better than that.

Being the biography style film it is there aren’t any huge cliffhangers or anything or exceptional shows of cinema, but the heart of the movie is in the story of a man who did seemingly the impossible.

And to people who still think otherwise, menstruation is normal. It’s just like when you go to the loo it’s just that a certain group of people go through it. It’s a challenging period of time for a woman where they van suffer from cramps to mood swings to more severe issues. A taboo against it, is the last thing we need. Consider it normal, because it is, and let’s do our part to break out of these taboos.

There have been a lot of changes over the years with organization’s granting special leaves for women to take when they’re physically unwell during their periods to actually giving proper education to young girls and boys at the right time, to understand what it is and make sure there is no chance for misinformation to spread.

All in all, if you want to watch a well executed biographical film set amidst a rare setting and a rare topic such as this, I highly recommend this film.

You can check out the trailer – here.

Image courtesy : Google Image Search

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