What do you find between a woman's legs?
I'd say, in our country, denial.
There are around 1 billion people milling about who'd rather talk about the weather, vile politicians and their neighbours’ whereabouts than what's single-handedly weakening every last man of the 1 point something billion – the plight of our women.
R Balki’s ‘Pad Man’ will make you want to square your shoulders, draw yourself up to your fullest height and mull over the whispered taboos, the very mention of which, lead most men and women to squeal in shock and most shopkeepers to sell a packet of sanitary napkins, wrapped righteously in a piece of newspaper or a black plastic bag...almost as if they were selling charas or ganja at a sombre Parliamentary session.
The Akshay Kumar-Radhika Apte starrer is not a ‘her-secrets’-speckled commercial that cheekily soaks the sanitary pad (an expensive one at that) with perplexing blue liquid to exhibit its absorbent properties and then manages to miraculously arm the menstruating woman with an ability to set herself “free’’.
Balki’s Padman tells you that none of it is really setting women “free’’.
Neither the price, nor the hush-hush nature of the ‘bloody’ affair. (And definitely not those four or five days of pain and discomfort.) Unless of course one is privileged enough to afford a healthy, hygienic alternative to unsanitary menstrual products like time-worn pieces of clothes, or fistfuls of ash. In which case, the situation is alleviated. But only to a certain extent. Because the ‘whispers’ stay.
If you’ve been in the loop for the last three or four months, you will have already guessed our Padman’s story. Yes, it is foreseeable. But does that negate what it has in store for one?
Not a ghost of a chance!
‘Pad Man’ talks about the extraordinary story of a man, Laxmikant Chauhan, who comes up with a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine, after realizing that his wife uses a piece of dirty cloth to stem her flow, while menstruating. The health hazards associated with such usage and his wife’s refusal to opt for “expensive pads’’ drive him to not only invent his own contraption that makes use of a 4-step process to manufacture prototypes of the expensive sanitary napkins out there, but also battle the taboos around menstruation.
But you knew that already, right? Or at least, most of it?
So, why should you go watch ‘Pad Man’?
‘Pad Man’ talks about the science of things.
‘Pad Man’ demystifies the elephant (or should I say, ‘pad’?) in the room and breaks it down for you.
And I am not just talking about the technical know-how related to its production. Or the dire necessity of cheap, healthy alternatives to unsanitary products.
It demystifies what lies, in this case, between a wo(e)man’s legs.
It brings before your eyes, on the giant screen, a life-sized sanitary napkin that sits still, sits calm and sits unperturbed...
Till the very last frame.
Till you forget that Akshay Kumar is holding a hush-hush ‘pad’ in his hands.
Till your untrained eyes acclimate themselves to the normalcy of the product.
In one particular scene, Pari, played by Sonam Kapoor, the urban English-speaking benefactor who helps Laxmi, exclaims that only a woman can talk to another woman about “things like these...’’
Before you squirm and pinch yourself up over the remark, it hits you. Here’s a woman talking about things that should stay among women, in a movie with a male lead, armed with a pad in one hand and the desire to make things easier for women, in the other hand.
That is when you know that the Padman’s story is beyond logistics and beyond your willing suspension of disbelief.
Despite its demerits, the movie tugs at your heartstrings...because ‘Pad Man’ is about Arunachalam Muruganantham, the Coimbatore man who not only stood his ground and personally helped out as many women in need as possible, but also took a small step to prove to us that “sharam’’ (shame) shouldn’t be a woman’s greatest malady.
Mrs Funnybones, I’ll give you this one.
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