Starring: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Radhika Apte
Director: R Balki
Review by Ronak Kotecha
What’s it about?
Based on wife Twinkle Khanna’s short story in her book ‘The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad’, ‘Padman’ is Akshay Kumar’s ode to Tamil Nadu’s social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented low cost sanitary napkins for women in rural India.
For anyone who has grown up in an orthodox Indian environment, the mystery around women’s menstrual cycle must have always been padded with layers of shame, untouchability, discomfort and a strong taboo.
R Balki’s ‘Padman’ gets to this point almost instantly with his story set in Madhya Pradesh’s Maheshwar wheremaa, behen and betis are routinely following the age-old tradition of secluding themselves with nothing but a dirty cloth when the chumming cycle comes calling. A 5-day test match, as gulley’s young boys call it.
Amidst them, one man Laksmikant played by Akshay Kumar decides to lead the change for the women in his family by making affordable and organic sanitary pads, but all his attempts backfire with utmost contempt and eventual ostracisation.
Through the first half, director R Balki breezes through the simplistic joys and sorrows of a nondescript Indian village even exposing the hypocrisy of a society that celebrates a girl’s puberty but ignores her health and hygiene.
While Padman doesn’t feel preachy at first but as the film progresses, ‘Padman’ starts to slip, trying to decide between being a glorified documentary or an entertaining drama. Too many cinematic liberties start flowing freely and laughable coincidences start to pinch, much like the uneasy and forced love angle between Sonam and Akshay.
While Akshay makes an honest attempt to be as rudimentary as possible, Sonam makes a dash at being cool and fails. Radhika Apte’s forever frowning face explains her character’s one expression throughout the film.
But in the midst of all of this, takeaways from ‘Padman’ are few moments from the first half, and the awe-inspiring victory of the real Padman that ironically you knew about all along.
Apart from that, the film seems a tad long and doesn’t quite absorb you in despite being just 2 hours and 20 minutes.
Gear up for ‘Padman’ if want to catch the cinematic version of how the real Padman weaved his magic or there are more authentic documentaries available online.
I am going with 2 and a half stars.