Akshay Kumar has entertained us with diverse roles; his past few films have been blockbuster. His last two films TOILET: EK PREM KATHA & PADMAN were based on socially relevant subjects.
PADMAN was loved masses despite being based on taboo subject. Post the success of PAD MAN in an interview Akshay Kumar spoke about the film's success and impact on the society and how he thinks that movies can create a lot of social change and hence become important social machinery.
Congratulations for PAD MAN it’s doing good, however the stigma around the theme still exists, what do you have to say about that?
The movie is doing well obviously, the critics have loved it, everybody has loved it, I see it when I go on the internet. The audiences and critics have loved the film but there are certain people in regions like Bihar, parts of UP and Haryana who are still hesitant to address the issue. Men aren’t allowing their wives to go and watch the movie. The idea of PAD MAN was to break the taboo. The intention was to make women insist their men to go to the movie along with them and say there’s nothing wrong in what they go through. The men too need to feel responsible for buying pads for the women. Usually stars don’t meet up after the film has released, but I wanted to talk not only about the appreciation but also the fact the World Bank has taken an initiative to showcase the film to every village in India and we have over 6,42,000 villages and they’ll watch the film free of cost. I just want people to realize even if the film is about sanitary pads, it’s not something unnatural. There’s nothing to be ashamed about.
Tell us something about the sanitary pads vending machine that you recently installed.
In India the number of women not using sanitary napkins is 82% but it’s lesser in other parts of the world. We’ve launched a pad vending machine in all the State Transport stations of Maharashtra. We are targeting around 120 depots to have these machines.
As actors, do you and your co-stars feel more responsible in being the torchbearers of breaking this taboo by making more visits to rural India and educating people about the issue?
The problem is nobody is interested in listening to speeches. People are more interested in watching a film and taking notice of what happens in it. They don’t want to see documentaries or hear politicians out. If we actors give speeches, they might just come to see us and not focus on the speech. People have watched TOILET: EK PREM KATHA rather than hearing about it and being inspired. Lot of government officials go to a village and sit down with a projector and show TOILET: EK PREM KATHA to the people of the village, and they pick up things. There’s a hero, a heroine, songs, action and gesture of making toilets. Entertainment is the best method to give out a message. Maharashtra government has started pad banks where people give sanitary pads to be distributed to the needful. One can also deposit money for the purchase of pads. There are things like these that we are doing which can actually bring real change.
What is the scope of social issue oriented films in our country? Do you think your recent films have opened the gates for them?
The audiences are slowly accepting these issues. Toilets are a much easier subject to put through but not sanitary pads. There are lot of villages too that aren’t allowing their women to watch the film and talk about mensuration. This is not the end, I haven\'t given up on spreading awareness about toilet and female sanitation, and I won\'t give up on this either. This is not about movies for me; these are things I have felt for. I held a pad for the first time two years back, and that\'s how I thought it was important that people are aware. The fact that women do not have resources enough to buy sanitary products, it is worrisome. Women have to face so much, they are not allowed in temples and their own kitchen, they are made to sleep in the verandah, and we need to do something to change that.
Pakistan has banned PAD MAN, is there any other backlash that the film has faced? Does it affect you in any way?
There is no backlash as such; the only thing is that Pakistan has banned the film. But then we do not have any say in that. I can just request them to allow the people there to watch the film because it is a very important message and that there is nothing wrong that we have shown in the film, I can promise that. I am sure that one day the film will be shown in Pakistan.
What are the other socially relevant film would you want to take up?
I will do HOUSEFULL now, I don’t want to get typecast by doing similar roles, I remember there was a time when I was only doing actions films, and it was so tough for me to shed that image. I want to do variety of roles, like KESARI is a war film which I haven’t done.
What is the status of ROBOT?
I am also unaware as of now; in fact I don’t even know when the next installment of HOUSEFULL will kick off.