R. Balki's 'Padman' released on 9th February 2018, creating awareness about the sanitation and health of women during their menstruation period. Starring Akshay Kumar (as Lakshmikant Chauhan), Radhika Apte (as Gayatri) and Sonam Kapoor (as Pari) the movie is based on real life inspiring story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore, who invented a machine that produced sanitary napkins at a very low cost in India. The movie shows how despite facing severe rejection and opposition from people of his village and to not having any resources, he eventually manages to put across his message by his persistence and need to bring about a change.
Seeing his wife using a dirty rag during her periods, Lakshmi fears her health and gets on the task of making a low-cost pad for her and women of the house. Being from a lower economic background he and his wife could not afford to buy expensive packeted pad every month. The movie also shows how a basic necessity for women is commercialized and sold at such a high price, which not only takes away a lot from women who cannot afford it but also makes it difficult for them to endure the duration. The movie in the first half covers all aspects of a woman's life during her periods in a backward region or village area- from using a dirty cloth, to sleeping outside the house in a separate room, eating in separate utensils, not praying or doing any house work. The taboo there is around the issue is very realistically shown, about how it is not just perpetuated by men but women too.
Lakshmi's journey from being an outcast for his need to help women in the community to getting the social invention award from IIT Delhi is not just impacting but emotional. Pari, a young modern woman from Delhi being the first client of using Lakshmi's hand-made pad, helps him in the difficult task of convincing women around various villages to use cheap hygienic pads he makes with the machine (he made on his own) instead of using a dirty rag. While his wife leaves him in embarrassment, he never abandons his dream of making women's lives more hygienic and safe, hoping that eventually he'll be understood.
Akshay Kumar, usually being the under-rated actor manages to make the movie light-hearted and convey the message at the same time. Radhika Apte brilliantly portrays the role of a village woman who fails to understand the need to move towards an option away from what has been taught to her or what she had seen growing up. Although the movie aims at bridging the gap between the sexes by making men understand "women's problem", there are places it doesn't come across as openly as it should. At times there is a dis-balance between the need to be serious and entertained, the disparity takes away the importance of few scenes in the movie.
The most moving part of the movie is Lakshmi's broken English speech in the UN , where he openly talks about his intentions of creating a safe place for women and not earning big money. The speech is moving and shows how his dedication influenced many. The movie with all the needed drama is a must watch, not just to discard the taboo around 'periods' but also take a step towards being aware of women's sanitation situation in India.