Review / ‘Pad Man’ (PG) *** and a half

SCREENING locally late at night in only one cinema and possibly getting withdrawn by the time this review appears in print, “Pad Man” deals with a theme seldom explored in feature films – sanitary pads.

It’s a dramatisation of how Tamil activist and metal worker Arunachalam Muruganantham designed simple machinery costing 90,000 rupees for a cottage industry that could manufacture pads for two rupees each. A far cry from the million-dollar machines used to make pads retailing at 55 rupees for five, a month’s supply that many of India’s 500 million women could not afford. What had they been using throughout the ages? All manner of uncomfortable unhygienic stuff – old cloth needing daily washing, leaves, even grass.

Worse even than the hygiene aspects were the social stigma and shunning imposed on women during menstruation. They were unclean, banished from the house. That’s why Muruganantham, renamed Lakshmi by writer/director R. Balki and winningly played by Akshay Kumar, felt compelled to do something about the reason for his bride Gayatri’s (Radhika Apte) embarrassment shortly after the wedding.

The villagers, men and women alike, berate Lakshmi for his interest in an unclean matter and expel him. Those passages provide a strong pathos. Lakshmi borrows money, builds his machinery and through a fortuitous happenstance (where would movies be without those?) meets winsome Pari (Sonam Kapoor) who plays in a musical trio by night and has nearly completed an MBA by day.

Pari teaches Lakshmi the rudiments of business. The pair become very close. The business becomes a strong cottage industry with a large captive market when the price is right! And what about Gayatri back in the home village?

The film’s highlight is Lakshmi’s address at UN headquarters to an audience mainly of women, an acting tour de force, funny, charming, sincere, warm-hearted, not easy to forget.

At Hoyts Belconnen


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