Menstruation in daily life has often been nothing more than a reason for an insensitive jibe. Recall those one-liners about husband retiring to bed because wife has a ‘headache’, an argument often ending with ‘is it that time of the month?’ or bosses sneering to hire ladies as ‘they take more leaves’. Seldom has society mocked at a bleeding person so brutally. Compare this to how a man freezes aghast at the sight of blood dripping from the right knee of their favourite millionaire footballer.
At the outset I thank the original Padman, Shri Arunachalam Muruganantham, for loving his wife and her brethren more than you and I. Akshay’s character Lakshmi is shown making onion cutter and comfortable cycle seat for his wife. Scenes which would make you question what have you done for your better half? Kudos to Akshay and his real life better half, Twinkle Khanna, for being in forefront of paying tributes to the real heroes of the world. They would have known that Padman won’t see commercial success in a society where barely 12% women use sanitary pads or where an ordinary gloss movie, Padmaavat, rides over controversy to gross to 250+ crores.
Honestly, Padman concept had enough fodder to trigger controversies and a dishonest movie maker would have stirred up one such – to ensure ticket sales. But Akshay Kumar has never taken that ‘manufactured path‘ to success. So Padman has its heart in the right place. How I wish sanitary pad companies had that big heart – they could have rode on this R Balki directed movie, decreased sanitary pad costs by 25%-30% and pushed for more sale volumes.
I recall just two decades ago, my family members too were dependant on cutting out old cotton sarees, fold and make sets of permanent pads out of them. They would be recycled (washed) after every use and kept under the mattress over the three week period – to be flattened and ready for next use. We weren’t poor, but sanitary pad manufacturers were poor in their thinking. Ever heard them lining up at schools and societies, educating girls to switch to hygiene? Selling packs of 120 diapers at 50% discount – to cater to a girl’s yearly need?
Padman is a half decent product if measured against entertainment parameters – only the first half is engaging. Aside Piku and Vicky Donor, not many movies globally have managed to make memorable products out of taboo subjects. Padman doesn’t have repeat viewing value, aside Akshay’s immense determination and Radhika Apte’s powerful expressions. While their love story is eternal, the movie does sound like a sermon in the second half, despite successfully conveying the frustrations and one-point objective that our lead was going through. True, it needed a superstar to pass Arunachalam’s passion to the masses but it needed a better director and writer to make a more impactful product. The second half is part boring and Sonam Kapoor’s infatuation for Akshay was least bit required.
My pre-teen daughter Arushi was the first to ask me ‘Why does Akshay Kumar only do inspirational real life roles?’ Akki’s recent record reads – Airlift, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, Padman and upcoming biography Gold on Balbir Singh Sr. It’s food for thought. She enjoyed the movie as a learning experience.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Forget the rating. sanitary pad companies must fund to screen this movie free at every corner of the country. On intermission, sell their pads at 50% off – with volumes, the costs must drop.)
Footnote: Pakistan have banned Padman as they feel the topic is against their culture and tradition. I took my very young kids to the movie. So am guessing anyone who isn’t going for Padman, has a better excuse than the Pakistanis.