'PadMan': Movie Review

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor in PadMan

Have you heard of Arunachalam Muruganantham? Those of you who have heard of him would know that this Coimbatore-based man is a Padma Shri awardee. As for the uninitiated, Muruganantham is a social entrepreneur who revolutionized the way sanitary pads are made by designing a special machine that can make low-cost sanitary pads. Muruganantham has also played an instrumental role in creating awareness about the rudimentary practices that women follow during menstruation in rural India. For his novel achievement, Time magazine included him in the list of 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2014.

Of course, Muruganantham didn’t have it easy. PadMan, directed by R.Balki, is based on Muruganantham’s struggle and his ultimate triumph. But it isn’t exactly a biopic. PadMan is not only not set in Tamil Nadu but it also revolves around a fictional character named Lakshmikant Chauhan (aka Lakshmi) that tries to be true to Arunachalam Muruganantham in both letter and spirit. But, at the end of the day, Pad Man is not a documentary but a commercial Bollywood film and so it offers a highly dramatized account of what can be described as the story of Muruganantham’s struggles to spread awareness about the use of sanitary pads. 

Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte in PadMan
Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte in PadMan
When it was announced that Priyanka Chopra would play the titular character in the Omung Kumar-directed Mary Kom, there were many who thought that casting an actor from the North East in the eponymous role would have been the right thing. And, as already stated above, PadMan is not a biopic in the strictest of sense, but the makers could certainly have set an example by casting a South Indian actor to play the lead. But, Bollywood is clearly more concerned about the commercial factors than anything else. However, serious questions do arise that Bollywood sooner or later will have to answer.
Sonam Kapoor in PadMan, R. Balki
Sonam Kapoor in PadMan
PadMan features some very interesting performances. Akshay Kumar continues with his merry ways, yet again playing a rather unconventional character with his characteristic poise and ease. Within his range, he shifts gears quite effortlessly. Yes, there moments when he looks a bit over the top but they are few and far between. The high point of his performance is a poignant speech his character delivers at the UN that packs a punch. The film’s second best performance comes from Sonam Kapoor. She plays a young B-School graduate who helps Lakshmi in taking his invention to the rural women in India. The subtle manner in which the movie depicts their relationship is vintage Balki. Alas, the box-office considerations yet again come to spoil the party just when the film appears to be taking an interesting turn. As for Radhika Apte, she seriously needs to think twice before she decides to play a rural housewife. Here again she does a decent job but these roles are not pushing her the way some of her earlier roles did. 
A Still from PadMan, Sonam Kapoor, Akshay Kumar
A Still from R. Balki's PadMan
Now, Akshay Kumar has often been accused of essaying preachy characters in the recent times with Toilet: Ek Prem Katha being the most cloyed of them all. Watching the rushes of PadMan one got a feeling that Akshay would outdo the preacher in him this time around. Now, there is no denying that PadMan is a preachy film. But it doesn't overdo it for the most part. In fact, with the exception of a few sequences, PadMan does a decent job at conveying the importance of sanitary pads for women. And despite being melodramatic it succeeds in telling the all important story of a man who selflessly dedicated his life to ensure a better quality of living for women. The onus is now on the government to take up the issue of menstrual hygiene with the gravity it deserves. Waiving off the GST would certainly be a step forward. Otherwise, initiatives like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan would continue to be mock exercises.

Rating: 7.5/10

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

PadMan - Official Trailer (YouTube)

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