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Padman : An audacious tale about menstruation icon

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Credits : Inox

STORY Concerned about his wife Gayatri's (Radhika Apte) menstrual hygiene, Lakshmikant Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) urges her to ditch the cloth and opt for sanitary napkins. Gayatri is reluctant to go for disposable pads as they are expensive. Lakshmi obsessing over a 'ladies problem' makes her cringe but he insists on bringing upon a change by addressing the taboo topic. Subjected to hostility for ruffling the religious and age-old beliefs of people around, can the man brave the resistance and get his point across?

REVIEW A young girl teases her brother when he wants to romance his wife, but runs away horrified when she sees a sanitary napkin in his hands. A loving but naive wife is scandalised as her husband “obsessed with women’s problems”. It is moments like these that make Akshay Kumar’s PadMan elevating, without being didactic. R Balki’s much-hyped film is based on the real life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham. Despite being peppered with melodrama and some unnecessarily stretched scenes, the entertaining PadMan delivers a robust message -- the importance of women’s menstrual health.

Amidst several taboos in the society, menstrual cycle of women being the most unfortunate one, director R Balki makes a brave attempt with the film that talks about personal hygiene of women especially in villages.

His life changes upside down when he innovates a machine to manufacture sanitary pads. Incidentally, he meets Pari (Sonam Kapoor), an aspiring MBA student from Delhi who decides to help him. What happens next forms the rest of the plot.

With many films on social messages these days, PadMan stands out for its unique subject and storytelling. However, the film is too preachy especially in the first half. Unlike R Balki's narrative of his previous films, the conflict enters quite early and high point at the interval in this one. The screenplay of the film is problematic as it is similar to Akshay Kumar's last release Toilet Ek Prem Katha that talked about the issue of open defecation.

PadMan begins on slow note and drags on for some time before picking up pace. The characters in the supporting cast seem to be in a race for over-acting - be it Akshay’s onscreen mom or random background characters in every frame, they look like they were simply lifted from a 60s movie.

Sonam has quite a late entry in the narrative, but adds charm to every frame she inhabits. Her character has been beautifully etched, perhaps to balance Radhika’s naive and self-destructive female character. Sonam’s character not only offers marketing and financial help to Lakshmi, but also shares a modern and chilled-out life mantra when the former is a bit confused following certain turn of events.

While Radhika disappears into the naive, blind-folded woman who believes “auratonkeliyesabsebadibeemarihaisharam”, Akshay tries his best to be the superhero he has come to be identified with in his films. Only, Akshay’s accent and tone often fluctuate between those of a villager, a person with the basic knowledge of English and someone who is educated enough to differentiate between American and British accents. Sonam plays a privileged South Delhi girl and fits perfectly in the role. She also gets to mouth some of the best comebacks directed at Akshay in the film.

A stand-out scene was Apte’s sticker shock at the cost of sanitary towels that her husband lovingly brings home as a gift and her dubious expression at his obsession with women’s menstruation. Her struggle to accept her noble husband who takes up a sticky cause is wonderfully brought out by Apte.

Known for making films that work towards bridging the age and gender gap, Balki's Padman is an empowering film that gives you the wings, despite the odds. It will free women of their inhibitions and that will be its biggest success. Period!

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