Padman: From Sniggers to Applause
Have to leave critical faculties at home
Having watched hundreds, if not thousands of films over the years, this was one screening where one felt like leaving the critical faculties at home.
This screening of the much-talked about Padman was courtesy Miranda House which had invited children from Prayas, among others, to see a film that urges girls to shed their inhibitions about the most natural phenomenon of their lives their periods.
Girls from the college were holding placards saying 'No shame for the Natural' and 'Sanitary Pads- a necessity not a luxury. Make it tax free.'
The Miranda House Principal Dr.Pratibha Jolly told the select audience that periods were nothing to be ashamed about and women had the right to bleed with dignity. Well known Kathak dancer Shovana Narayan an MH alumni asked society to shed inhibitions and start talking about this most natural phenomenon.
But the film about a real time hero Arunachalam Muruganantham, written by Twinkle Khanna tells us that only 12 per cent women can afford sanitary pads, the others are forced to use dirty cloth,leaves and even ash during those five critical days (called 5 day match) in this film by teenage boys.
The story begins also immediately as the hero Lakshmi Prasad (Akshay Kumar), an 8 th pass welder decides that his wife (Radhika Apte) will not use a dirty cloth during her periods, or that she will not sit outside the kitchen for five days as his sisters have been doing.
This one point mission turns into an obsession as he starts preparing affordable pads for not only his wife but for every woman in the family and the neighbourhood.Initially his wife understands that he is concerned about her health but as his mother and sisters start doubting his 'character' she decides to leave him because even death is worse than shame for her.
The audience response is also in tune with their reaction and there are sniggers and giggles as women are shocked as his audacity to gift them pads to prevent infections during those critical days.
However Lakshmi Prasad is not the one to give up so easily.He befriends a young son of a professor who teaches him to use 'Google' to find material to make a safe and secure sanitary pad and then enters the gorgeous Sonam Kapoor in his life.
She not only becomes his first customer but encourages him to put up his innovative pad making machine for show in an exhibition where Amitabh Bachchan gives him an award of 2 lakhs for the most useful invention useful for people.
It is an upward graph after this culminating with his longish speech at the United Nations where he talks about India and its problems.But his take on this is touching even if a bit of a cliche when he says 'if you don't want any problems, go and die'.
The little love story between an upmarket Sonam and a typically illiterate Lakshmi Prasad is doomed as we in the audience know but it is refreshing as long as it lasts.One cannot but be touched by Palki's brilliant flourishes as watching her husband on TV all she is worried about is 'who tucked his shirt in.He can' t do it himself'.
The film is longish, the first part is repetitive and the man is too obsessed.But as I said, there are times when one feels like suspending the critical faculty because here the cause is most important.
Not that there has not been a movement to educate girls to talk and discuss these issues. The sanitary pad making companies have already shed their inhibitions and probably this must be the most publicised commodity on TV.
Moreover, an organisation called Sachi Saheli led by a gynaecologist Dr.Surbhi Singh has been educating school and university girls to discuss these issues openly at home because there is nothing to be ashamed about.
Having watched the special screening of the film at Delite Dr.Surbhi Singh said'I am so happy someone has taken up this issue and made it into a film.Now more people will talk about it and our awareness campaign will get a new boost.'
That is the real worth of this film.Twinkle Khanna who is already a celebrity writer after her first book Mrs.Funnybones has touched a soft corner in lots of families with this film.
And when the audiences cheer Akshay Kumar when he says I have changed my name from Lakshmi Kant to Lakshmin Can' we try not to link it with Manoj Kumar, because the cause is much more significant and important than pitching the image of India.