BAT MAN, SPIDER MAN, SUPER MAN we know super heroes in comics and on screen are made of steel with an undying zeal to do something that saves the man kind. Bollywood has seen biopics on sports persons, historians etc. The story of Coimbatore born Arunachalam Muruganantham is certainly a story of remarkable revolution that needs to be told. The man who became a super hero thinking about the safety of women who still use waste banana fibre or bamboo during their cycles is an extra ordinary tale of women empowerment imagined through the vision of an eight standard drop out who after seeing his wife using dirty cloth during her cycles, invents low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and finds himself giving speeches in U.N. and appearing on cover pages of Time Magazine.
Inspired by the real-life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, PAD MAN starring Akshay Kumar deals with the socially relevant issue of female hygiene during menstruation. Director R Balki is known for churning innovative concepts like CHEENI KUM, PAA, etc. and here the director in a concept credited to Twinkle Khanna begins the proceedings in a no nonsense manner. It begins with simpleton Lakshmikant Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) getting married to Gayatri (Radhika Apte). Shown as a caring husband who modifies a toy in order to rescue his wife from cutting onions, one day sees her using a dirty cloth for her periods. Lakshmi urges Gayatri to use a proper clean cloth but ruled by traditions; Gayatri refuses to use any fresh cloth and sticks to that filthy piece of cloth as a ritual followed by women since ages. Lakshmi then offers Gayatri branded sanitary napkins, which get immediately rejected for being expensive.
Unable to bear the sight of Gayatri opting to unhealthy means during her 5 days, Lakshmi takes an oath to solve this ‘ladies issue’ by inventing a machine that can make cheap sanitary napkins as low as rupees 2 compared to the branded one priced at Rs. 55. Lakshmi faces challenges from his wife, family, his village, the age old beliefs and customs. Gets ostracized by his family and community Lakshmi begins a journey of discovery that changes the world for women around the globe. Pari (Sonam Kapoor) becomes his ‘women’ Friday who becomes his first client and lucky charm walking with him hand in hand from the rural interiors to the international U.N. summit.
Balki’s narration is simple and the settings from Tamil Nadu are changed to Madhya Pradesh though not much attention is given to the lingo. It’s alarming to note that around 18% of women in India use sanitary napkins and the message comes out convincingly. Thankfully the movie doesn’t promote any particular brand and maintains its urge to influence women to use sanitary napkins.
As a filmmaker Balki takes liberties and at places we are overwhelmed by the simplicity and lack of struggle for Lakshmi in discovering his dream machine. The subject of PAD MAN is not for the gallery filled by entertainment hungry souls and some more realism in the approach could have worked wonders.
Some moments are a gem like Gayatri’s reaction to her brother’s harsh words for his wife during periods and Akshay Kumar’s reaction after finding that his hand made sanitary napkins have worked and Akshay Kumar’s speech at U.N. lifts the movie from falling in the mediocre category.
Overall, Balki has made a feel-good movie from this relevant and sensitive subject, which possesses strong women angles. The progression of Lakshmi after the invention is like a well shot commercial in rural area by an urban filmmaker.
It’s Akshay Kumar with his flawless and endearing act that overpowers the flaws to quite an extent. Bollywood’s current son-of-soil after TOILET: EK PREM KATHA takes another uplifting and thought provoking subject to the helm and excels. The U.N. speech, the reaction after winning the award are just small examples. PAD MAN will be remembered as one of Akshay Kumar’s most memorable performance for long.
Radhika Apte is terrific. Sonam Kapoor is a charmer and brings a fresh air of hope to the film.
Special mention to the writers Balki and Swanand Kirkire is a must with lines line ‘kamana nahi, sab ke kaam aana’ and more.
Amitabh Bachchan makes his thunderous presence felt.
Technicalities are fantastic with excellent production values. P.C. Sreeram’s cinematography and Chandan Arora’s editing is brilliant. However music by Amit Trivedi is functional.
All said and done, Akshay Kumar’s PAD MAN is the man that not only every women but everyone in the family should watch and get inspired. Super heroes are not ‘saving the world’ time n again, sometimes there are crazy ones who ‘change the world’ without wearing any masks or uniform.