Based on the inspiring story of a man who invented a revolutionary sanitary pad manufacturing machine, you won’t be surprised to know that India’s next upcoming film is called, well, Pad Man.
The light-hearted Indian, biographical film centres around Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist from the South Indian region of Tamil Nadu.
Muruganantham’s wife was deprived of hygiene and secure comfort, as she had no choice but to wear dirty rags rather than sanitary products during her menstrual cycle. Sadly, purchasing pads essentially meant that Muruganantham’s wife would not be able to afford to run her household. In disbelief, Muruganantham went to go and buy his wife pads, seeing that it cost roughly 4 rupees and that it’s actually 40 times the price of producing them from scratch. This harsh reality was a blessing in disguise, sparking Muruganantham to embark on his incredible endeavour.
Recognised by Time Magazine in 2014 as one of the top 100 influencers in the entire world, Muruganantham shamelessly raised awareness of how the traditional practices surrounding menustration in India were highly unhygienic. According to a report by Sanitary Protection: Every Woman’s Health Right, ‘88% of women in India resort to using ashes, newspapers, dried leaves and even husk sand during their periods’ and the BBC reported that ‘approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by these unhygienic practices.’
To this day, of the 29 states in India, 23 have these machines installed, and Muruganantham’s machines do not stop there. He wants his invention to expand across 106 global nations.
Now, onto the film. Directed by Indian filmmaker and screenwriter R. Balki, the colourful and comedic Pad Man features some of India’s highest-paid award-winning stars, such as Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte. The film also has a cameo appearance from producer and television personality Amitabh Bachchan, who has been in the industry since 1969.
Twinkle Khanna, one of the film’s producers and Kumar’s wife since 2001, was researching for a column for The Times of India and came across Muruganantham’s story. She was so inspired by Muruganantham’s confidence and determination that she thought by making his life into a film, it would educate the masses on an incredibly relevant and important subject, as well as diminishing the shameful associations wrongly attached to periods.
However, Kumar was not selected with a biased casting from his wife. Initially, she did not consider him for the role at all. But after the insistence of Muruganantham himself, Kumar gladly stepped up to the plate. And soon enough, Khanna realised that by casting her husband – an Indian icon to men and women alike and a recipient of Indian GQ’s Man of the Year Award in 2015 – who comfortably discusses periods and handling pads would be all the more prominent.
In regards to openly presenting and talking about periods, it is almost laughable that it is still hushed as revolting and shameful. But, judging by the trailer, the film looks funny, honest and inspiring, taking steps forward in actively smashing the taboo – and it’s about time.
Pad Man is due to be released in India on February 9th 2018 and fingers crossed, there will be a release date for the UK announced soon. In the meantime, watch the trailer here.
What are your thoughts on cinema breaking the period taboo?______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Text: Natalie Zannikos
Images: Santa Banta, NDTV, webindia123.com, Times of India, DNA India, Twitter