Movie Review: ‘Pad Man’

Shyama Sudra



In a time when socialism is taking Bollywood by storm, R Balki’s ‘Pad Man’ couldn’t have come at a better time. With Twinkle Khanna venturing into her first production, the Akshay Kumar starrer looked like a hit right from the trailers. Telling the story of one of TIME Magazine’s most influential aspirants, Arunachalam Muruganantham, seemed like a brilliant way of raising awareness for a worthy and thought-provoking cause. However, with the film depicting a true story of a man’s mission to provide cheaper sanitary towels for women, there was much anticipation as to how Balki will achieve treatment which ultimately sends the right message.

Lakshmi (Kumar) dotes on his wife Gayatri (Radhika Apte) and as a creative welder and inventor, he meets her every need. So when he finds that she, as well as his sisters and the rest of the women in the village, use an old dirty rag during their menstrual cycle due to the sanitary towels being so expensive, he sets out to make the pads himself. However, as his experiments fail, people come to know of what Lakshmi is doing, more so after a major mishap with one of his trials results in Gayatri leaving home out of shame, and Lakshmi being shunned from society. Determined in his mission to make sanitary towels at a cheaper price, Lakshmi journeys to the city and discovers he can make his own machine. Nonetheless, he still can’t get anyone to try his own pads, until tabla player Pari (Sonam Kapoor) is in need of a pad in the middle of the night, eventually becoming his first client. Learning about Lakshmi’s project, Pari decides to help him, starting a brand new journey of prospect, hygiene and women’s needs in the forefront.

Although this film is a commercial entertainer, Balki has told this inspiring story in a very humble way, making the film an easy watch. Addressing a sensitive issue will always be challenging, however Balki has represented his actors in a way that shows all sides of women menstrual hygiene, without demonizing people’s beliefs and sensitivities. In particular, Balki has used Lakshmi’s physical journey as a metaphor for his emotional one in the most simplest yet effective ways. This also goes for Apte and Kapoor’s characters who represent opposing ideologies.

Kumar never fails to impress and this film proves he has become more of a chameleon than ever before. From the first shot, audiences will be in awe of his presence and will become easily engrossed in his journey. His chemistry with Apte brings an exciting and heartwarming element to the film. Apte as Gayatri is exceptional where, like Kumar, she draws her audiences into her character. Kapoor plays the role of Pari moderately well. Being Lakshmi’s helping hand and pushing him towards success adds an element of support for the viewer’s emotions towards the lead character. Having said that, some parts of the film are disappointingly unconvincing. A good example of this is where Kapoor and Kumar share a moment of romance which doesn’t quite fit in with their characters so seems quite forced.

Keeping with the simplicity of the story, each song from the soundtrack adds a brilliant element in bringing the film to life. The placements of the songs are particularly effective, aiding the viewers’ engagement in the story all the more. Saying this, the music brings about a lighter feel to the film too, with catchy melodies and vocals by the likes of Amit Trivedi, Mika Singh, Jonita Gandhi and Arijit Singh.

It’s safe to say that Balki has made a wonderful film, where audiences will laugh, cry, sing and dance at every level. Though the film portrays a serious real-life subject, Balki has done extremely well in adding comic elements in the right places. It can be said that the film does drag a little in some scenes as well, though this can be overlooked. Overall, ‘Pad Man’ is a great watch and audiences will not only enjoy the experience but hopefully will learn and be inspired by a truly commendable individual. Rating: 4/5