Padman review: "Akki & Balki tackles a relevant social issue engagingly. Period!!!"
Ever since GST was rolled out on Doctor's day last year, it has received a lot of flak over the taxes imposed on various products. One such item of basic necessity happened to be the sanitary pads that was imposed a tax of 12% (marginally lower than the earlier 13.68%). In a country where only 12% of the women use pads, there needs to be more impetus on the part of every Govt in power to encourage menstrual hygiene & one such act will be to reconsider the tax on it.
At the turn of the new millennium, Arunachalam Muruganantham, the social activist from Tamil Nadu decided to come up with an alternative for the costly sanitary pads. Incidentally, his life became the inspiration for R Balki's latest movie "Padman". Lakshmikant Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) is a mechanic by profession who had recently married to Gayathri (Radhika Apte). Despite having discontinued his education, he was a master innovator & used it to good effect with interesting creations of his own. When Lakshmi realises that his wife puts herself to risk with unhygienic menstrual practices, he decides to solve the problem by making a low cost sanitary pad. However, it was much easier than done as his pad didnt have the deserved quality. In time, his obsession to perfect his creation virtually ostracizes him from his family and village. But he stuck on to his mission with unwavering determination & how he eventually manages to make people who ridiculed him sing praises about him forms the crux of the movie.
Based on "The Sanitary Man of Sacred Land" by Twinkle Khanna, it is inspired as mentioned earlier from Arunachalam's life. R Balki's credentials as a director is well established with movies like "Cheeni Kum", "Paa" etc to his credit. There is no doubt that making a movie on a social issue is not an easy task for the simple reason that it could turn out to be rather preachy. However, Balki & Swanand Kirkire has made sure that they kept the mood light wherever necessary with interesting sequences peppered throughout. They keep us engaged with the events that unfold & it was well picturised by P C Sreeram. Even Chandan Arora's BGM & music tracks were in sync with the mood of the movie & deserves praise.
The success of any movie lies in the hands of the audience & there is precious little that the artists can do except make sure that they always try to bring some novelty in their roles. This is exactly what Akki has been doing since the past couple of years with some wise & intelligent choice of movies. In his latest outing, he is brilliant as the protagonist as it keeps us invested in it. He has been given excellent support by Radhika Apte, who continues to impress in whatever role she appears. Even Sonam Kapoor who kinda overacts in most instances was fantastic.
Verdict: This was supposed to be on a collision course with "Padmaavat", but Akshay's magnanimity meant that it's release was postponed by a fortnight. Anywaz the decision has done both the movies a lot of good as evidenced by the box office numbers. After promotion of "Swach Bharat Abhiyaan" through "Toilet:Ek Prem Katha", Akki has given a subtle promotion to "Make in India" through this. Kudos to both Balki & Akki for tackling a social issue both engagingly & realistically. In short, it deserves to be watched!!!
Long Review: Padman
Akshay Kumar plays Lakshmi, a simple, uneducated man living with his mother, two sisters, and newly-wedded wife, Gayatri. A bit of an oddball in his thought processes, he makes it his life goal to produce low-cost sanitary napkins when he learns about the hard-up conditions that Gayatri and the women around him including his sisters, who have recently hit puberty live in, when it comes to menstruation. The religious aspect of the issue - where menstruating women are supposed to isolate themselves and live outside the house during the cycle (mostly in rural India) because they are considered impure - also bothers him, which is why Padman looks like it has been written with a complete contemplation of the issue.
Padman, therefore, is a critique of our times when a technically developed country like India that aspires to be digital-ready struggles with something as crucial and necessary as menstrual sanitation. Lakshmi's attempts to educate the people around him and fight the stigma that is stuck like the plague is much more important than to invent a low-cost napkin that is both efficient and cheap. Despite being a little bit successful in the latter department, Lakshmi continuously struggles to remove the preconceptions about menstruation that people have and which they are not ready to talk about.
It is because of not just the construction of the sanitary pad but also the construction of the screenplay that this works. Padman excels in all departments, also giving intermediate knowledge about napkins if people don't know about it already. A well-written plot, it moves ahead without hitting a bump. Of course, there are sequences that are sometimes cringe-worthy and sometimes impossible, but director Balki has evidently taken a lot of cinematic liberty, which is mandatory for a film that captures the entire essence of a social predicament such as this. The fact that Padman is based on the real-life story of the Indian inventor, Arunachalam Muruganantham, would make the viewer more confident and supportive of the structure.
Akshay Kumar is phenomenal and looks like he came directly out of the aforementioned film's sets. He carries the whole film on his shoulders and never once shows an inkling of restfulness. If there is a character that I feel an actor has done complete justice to in any film in the past few months, it'd be that of Lakshmi. Equally enchanting is the supremely talented Radhika Apte's performance who seems to be made just for the role of the village wife. There's not a single dull moment in Padman, thanks to the performances of the lad and the supporting cast. Sonam Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan grace the screen for some time and do a decent job, but it is the supporting actors that make the whole broth tastier.
Padman is perhaps R Balki's best film so far, something that I would even go as far as to list in Kumar's filmography as well. TN.
India ke paas apna Superhero Pad Man hai.
It is certainly appreciable that Indian films are choosing topics of social taboo and Pad Man is the latest one which talks about women’s menstrual hygiene and their need to use sanitary pads. In our country, menstruating women are treated as outcast on these days and barred from entering temples and kitchens, it is a matter of debate, since it deals with belief system of many. So, it is a welcome change, when efforts are being made to talk about such topics of societal taboo and what best media other than a film to deal with such paradigm shift needed. Pad Man is a film which is inspired from the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu). He is the inventor of low-cost sanitary pad-making machine. His innovative grassroot mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation has done wonders for women in rural India. He has not commercialized his mini machines which can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, rather he has chosen to sell it to self-help groups run by women. As per Wikipedia, these mini machines have been installed in 23 of 29 states of India, and he is planning to expand the production of these machines to 106 nations.
Along with many awards conferred on him, he was included in Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2014 and also Padma Shri in 2016 by Government of India.
One thing which is to be noted is that Pad Man, as it is claimed by the makers, is not the first film on Arunachalam. Amit Virmani has made a documentary ‘Menstrual Man’, Abhishek Saxena made Phullu (2017) and there is another unreleased film “I-Pad” made in 2015 by Amit Rai. Twinkle Khanna had come out with ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad” – a collection of four stories in 2016, out of which one story is “The Sanitary Man of Sacred Land” on which Pad Man is supposed to be based on. Of course, more the films on these subjects, it is good so as to create more and more awareness amongst people and get rid of taboo. So, Pad Man by R. Balki with Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte in the lead is successful in creating the right buzz.
R Balki has chosen to give fictional names to his protagonists Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte and also he has picked up the backdrop of Bhopal rather than Coimbatore. R Balki and Swanand Kirkire as writers does mention the statistics as well in the film that only 12% of women in India use sanitary pads. They have kept the tone of the film very light without making it preachy. Sensibilities of the audience is taken into consideration. The emotions of the females, the belief system of considering oneself unsacred during menstruating days, not entering Kitchen / temples, the celebration (almost like mini-wedding) when a girl matures and the confusion of male fraternity are very well captured in the screenplay.