“Auraton ke liye sabse badi beemari hai sharam (the biggest disease for women is shame),” – this line from the Akshay Kumar-starrer PadMan suggests how women are often forced to believe that they always need to be under some kind of veil which they can never remove.
Director R Balki has tried his best to present the story of a man called Arunachalam Muruganantham, who braved all odds to ensure his wife gets a healthy and long life, giving India its very own ‘PadMan’. He was honoured with Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2016.
Akshay Kumar plays Lakshmikant Chauhan in the movie while Radhika Apte is seen as Gayatri—his doting wife. And there comes a jerk in that. Why? PERIOD. Yes, the taboo associated with the monthly cycle of a woman is sadly seen in the country as a big issue which needs not to be talked about and if at all one has to, then keeping it hush-hush is the only recourse.
Lakshmi tries to break that practice and it’s no mean deal. He faces tough situations at home, faces rejection from his mother, sisters and even wife. On seeing his wife use a dirty piece of cloth in ‘those 5 days’, the man can’t sit at home in peace. Lakshmi kanth makes several efforts in trying to make a sanitary pad all my himself. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable priced at Rs 55 and not every village woman can afford that. But the difference is that Lakshmi decides that he ‘can’ and finally does. He runs his mind in every direction to learn how to make a sanitary napkin at home.
Lakshmi kanth wins his battle by creating a low-cost sanitary napkins machine not just for his wife but for women in villages, who also get a source of income by working with him. The man clearly shows immense focus and dedication in making every effort count and leaving no stone unturned in bringing a smile on the face of his beloved wife.
PadMan throws up forbidden topics for discussion and also questions the notion of masculinity even as Lakshmikant asks “Ek aurat ki hifazat karne mein nakamayab insaan apne aapko mard kaise keh sakta hai?”
Akshay Kumar’s performance comes with the trappings and obvious awareness of being a “crusader”; and Radhika Apte has little else to do other than weep copiously. Sonam Kapoor gets the worst intro scene in the history of Indian cinema—playing the tabla in a concert, off beam at that.
Ignorance is bliss. Perhaps, it would be better to see the film in a vacuum. For all those unaware of Muruganantham, especially those in North India, and all those who haven’t seen Phullu last year, Balki’s film could well be an eye-opener. But, for those in the know, Pad Man is an example of how good causes may not always make great cinema.