PADMAN Review: How the movie belonged to everyone yet to no one!

Putting the ‘Men’ in Menstruation.

No heroics, no intro song; Yet, one could deduce from the thunderous applause that Akshay Kumar has appeared on the screen. Makes one wonder if the Akshay Factor would overshadow the Arunachalam effect? Well.

Inspired by the real-life Padman, Padma Shri Arunachalam Muruganantham, the story of Padman is fascinating to say the least. The movie revolves around Lakshmi Prasad (Akshay Kumar) who accidentally notices his wife, Gayathri (Radhika Apte) using a dirty rag during her first periods after marriage. Why he wasn’t familiar with the situation when he has 3 sisters at home is not explained. Concerned for her hygiene, and having established himself as a handyman with few inventions to his name, he sets out creating the perfect sanitary pad, realizing that pads available at stores are pricier than meant to be. After several trials and fails which includes his wife having to join the experiment, he is humiliated by his village for his efforts and for involving himself in ‘women’s problems’. Separated from his wife and estranged from his family who are tired of his antics, he sets out to Delhi and later to top institutes to understand the problem behind creating a quality pad and the reason for his failure.

Directed by Balki, the film revolves largely around Lakshmi Prasad who is seen hugging and smiling the elderly as often as possible in comparison to how many times the word ‘Period’ was mentioned (in fact it was only referred to as chums or 5-Day women’s problem). A scene in which Akshay tries to reach out to medical college students for his pad experimentation, waiting outside the college, is commendable. So is the scene where he tries to reach out a kid in the middle of the night on her first day of puberty hoping to teach her hygienic practices from Day 1. What fell short were when scenes such as the one where he tells his wife he was trying to keep her safe by making a pad because she keeps him safe by cooking was flabbergasting.

The highlight of the movie is the entry of Sonam Kapoor who plays a Tabala artist, Pari. While Pari is the inspirational, pragmatic yet smart female lead, she is reduced to a smooch with a married man, muted scenes wherein she attempts to sell pads to village women, saying, god, knows what, and an abrupt teary goodbye at the airport.

The movie blatantly reminds us at every scene that it is based on the book, ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’ by Twinkle Khanna and not on any biography of Padma Shri Arunachalam Muruganantham himself. Did it have something for the Southern audiences who were expecting a mention of Arunachalam’s background? No. Did it have something for the women who go through not just the stigma of periods but the lack of understanding of their bodies and changes in them? No. Did it have something for the men who accompanied the women in the theatre, giving them some more insight on actual periods? No. Did it have something for all moviegoers and all of the public? Definitely.

The UN speech inspired scene of Padman talking in ‘Lingish’ is sure to strike a chord with every non-believer. Scenes were the women cry that they would rather die of shame than of illness, teaches us why awareness about menstruation is equally important as cheap and easy avail of pads. For those who have been touched by the actual Padman effect ever since the 2012 Ted Talk might find the film, filmy, but for those who are just looking to catch a movie this weekend with a nice message, go see Lakshmi Prasad’s story.

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