'Pad Man' is what we call one of the better Hindi films of the year. Akshay Kumar and R. Balki well-craft a story which is inspiring and important in equal parts.
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.