Did you know Akshay Kumar’s PADMAN was not the first feature film on Arunachalam Muruganantham?
Was it corporate pressure or lack of ‘face’ value?.. While Akshay Kumar's PAD MAN is gaining accolades from the concerned audience and women in general. Award winning filmmaker Amit Rai whose I – PAD based on the issue of menstrual hygiene and unavailability of affordable sanitary napkins for majority of Indian women, claims to be the first to get inspired by the uplifting success story of the iconic Arunachalam Muruganantham before Akshay Kumar starrer.
The director of I - PAD Amit Rai shares some bitter truth faced by ‘small’ producers/filmmakers with us while expressing his pleasure for the movement finally getting momentum via super star Akshay Kumar’s power with a hope that his movie I – PAD (Presented at NFDC Investor’s Pitch at Film Bazaar Goa 2015) will also see the light one day in future.
Born in Ulhasnagar Amit Rai whose thought provoking and enlightening ROAD TO SANGAM (2010) starring Paresh Rawal, Om Puri and Pawan Malhotra gained accolades at film festivals around the globe says that he registered I – PAD man in 2010. “I got it registered in 2010 after coming to know about the achievements of Arunachalam Muruganantham through media. It took me around one and a half year to pen the story and I didn’t intend to make a biopic on Arunachalam. My intention was to make a film on the scary scenario of MNC sharks eating up small scale industries in India”.
Amit Rai son of a mill worker, who lost his job when mills were turned into malls in Mumbai, refuses to go to Phoenix mall because it reminds him of the tragedy and believes that the mall is built over the graves of many mill workers.
Sharing about his meeting with Arunachalam Muruganantham, Amit says, “I went to see him in 2013, he wasn’t that popular during those times, only in 2016 when he appeared on Times magazine, people started talking about him more, he gave me oral permission to make the film”.
When asked what went wrong and why I - PAD has not yet seen the light, Amit Rai shares a bitter truth that is unfortunately the voice of pious new age filmmakers emerging from the roots who at the first glance may appear to be just another passerby but their work on celluloid creates a lasting impression.
I approached Manoj Bajpayee and Irrfan Khan, “Both agreed and I have even managed funds to support the cost but due to some creative differences regarding second-half it didn’t work out”. The title role is played by Sudhir Nema.
In Amit’s opinion, “The sequence where the protagonist wears an artificial uterus and uses a pump to drop animal blood into it, was perhaps too much of an experiment even for actors like Irrfan and Manoj, it was crucial as only through this process the protagonist will come to know about the shortcomings in his experiment and also understand what women go through in those five days,” he adds.
Interestingly, R Balki’s PAD MAN released last Friday also has a sequence which is somewhat similar, on chances of uncanny resemblance if any, Amit says, “ I don’t want to get into the controversy, my movie is not in public domain, I am glad that Akshay Kumar has flagged off the movement, I went to production houses and got the feedback that I - PAD is too unusual and dark, I have made a movie on relevant issue and it’s an entertaining drama, the movie was appreciated at the Goa Festival in 2015, I - PAD also talks about the demons of MNC eating small scale industries, the horror of losing jobs, menstrual hygiene, a ‘Made In India’ invention and highlights the true idea of Mahatma Gandhi of man and machine, it’s a universal subject but unfortunately it failed to find any takers”.
But the irony has not dampened the spirit of Amit who says that talks with some producers are still on and he will continue to churn subjects that entertain and enlighten. “We have to live with the bitter truth, star power, corporate backing, arm twisting of exhibitors is a big spoiler for small filmmakers like us, my movie in a nutshell is on the horror of big players eating up small peoples livelihood that’s the reason it’s based in Bhopal the capital of Madhya Pradesh which has witnessed the most tragic incident of the gas tragedy due to an MNC with the issue of menstrual hygiene twined to bring forward the ‘Made In India’ message. We got appreciation at Goa Fest in 2015 and the producer of the film Monish Sikri and the co-producer Amit Abhyankar tried hard to get a release but in vain. They have lost money and with the announcement of Akshay Kumar’s film, more dark crowds started looming but still we are hopeful, a couple of producers have shown interest”.
Call it bad luck, not the right ‘period’, lack of face value ( star power) or lack of understanding amongst Bollywood fraternity (corporate houses), I - PAD a movie by a ‘small’ filmmaker like Amit Rai that spoke about menstrual hygiene earlier then Akshay Kumar’s PAD MAN is still waiting to be seen on screen.
When will this ‘period’ of irony for filmmakers like Amit Rai end?
Director Amit Rai