Pad Man is a Bollywood film about a man who worked, despite society’s disdain, on creating inexpensive feminine hygiene products for rural India.
The film attempts to normalize the idea of menstruation in a society that still cringes at the mention of periods and menstrual blood. It highlights the true importance and biological nature of menstruation in order to effectively dismantle the extremely harmful stigma that surrounds it.
Twinkle Khanna, the producer of this magnificent film starring her husband Akshay Kumar, recently spoke about the importance of this movie at the Oxford Union. She said:
“I hope this movie becomes a movement when women are no longer held back or shamed by their biological functions.”
Upon being asked why she decided to address this issue, she said:
“My primary motivation to make a movie on menstruation was to bring awareness to a subject that so far has been tucked away in shadows and, like Voldemort, is never mentioned.”
20 years ago, social activist and entrepreneur Arunachalam Murugunatham was concerned by the fact that his wife and the other women in his village were forced to use dirty rags during their menstruation cycles (pads were incredibly expensive). He went on to revolutionize sanitary hygiene for rural India by creating a way to make inexpensive feminine hygiene products, despite the mockery and opposition he was subjected to.
Khana had earlier documented the story of entrepreneur Arunachalam Murugunatham in her book The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad.
When asked why she was drawn to Arunachalam’s story, Khanna said that it’s because he went on from being a college dropout to an innovator with a number of awards to his name, despite the fact that he was a man that most people would have dismissed because of his lack of fluency in English. The film (which stars Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, and Radhika Apte) clearly explains every aspect of menstruation, feminine hygiene, and all the social and medical issues that go along with it.
It seems to focus on creating an understanding more than anything else.
The fact that this film showcases commercially acclaimed stars like Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor is incredible. People usually watch movies to see their favourite actors in action, and given that Sonam Kapoor and Akshay Kumar have both amassed a large global fanbase, the movie will definitely be a box office success. This means that people will definitely go to watch the movie for the stars, but will leave more accepting and understanding of the issue — and hopefully inspired to help break the stigma.
Akshay plays the lead role of Lakshmi: the cinematic depiction of Arunachalam. Sonam Kapoor, still riding on the critical and commercial success of her role as Neerja in the biopic of the same name, plays a truly likable character. Kapoor’s character unapologetically supports Lakshmi. Radhika Apte’s character of Gayatri, Lakshmi’s wife, is an echo of so many women in our society who are still afraid of the way society reacts to menstruation. She is relatable to every woman who is still subjected to such societal taboos.
The film has already sparked a social media trend called the #PadManChallenge, in which we see a number of Bollywood celebrities posing with pads, reiterating the film’s message: there is nothing wrong with menstruation. Period. The challenge has spread worldwide, creating awareness on the issue and promoting the film itself.
The movie has just been released and is a must-see for all audiences. Pad Man is an incredibly empowering film — one with the ability to make a real difference in our society. Let us hope that this film helps to free women from society’s shackles of ignorance. That, more than anything, will be the film’s greatest success.