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11 Feb

Haute Review: Padman

Something Haute rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When your life is weighed by the amount of honour you carry – which is not even one’s own but others – the worst of human condition surfaces. For women, this horrid reality comes in many shapes and sizes, where something natural like the Premenstrual Syndrome can cause shame. Bringing exactly this to the forefront is Akshay Kumar’s latest flick, Padman.

Based on the real story of Padma Shri honorary Arunachalam Muruganantham (which was first adapted as a short story by Twinkle Khanna), the story narrates the life of Lakshmikant Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) – a common man with a not-so-common habit of learning and trying to innovate new technology for his loved ones – and his quest to educate the women of his family to stop treating their monthly period as a disease. However, much to his distress, his mission soon turns out to be his worst enemy.

Meandering through Lakshmi’s dilemma, Padman explores his one-man journey into changing his wife’s (Radhika Apte) perception of the situation come what may, along with trying to combat the stigmas attached to his mission.

In a country like India, where about 500 million women exist but only 18% percent have access to sanitary napkins, R. Balki’s directorial serves as an important piece of filmmaking. In its swift 2 hours and 30-minute length, the film not only tackles hard-hitting questions around PMS but also quashes a plethora of superstitious beliefs that are rampant in the Subcontinent.

 

Pad Man

Sonam Kapoor as Pari plays a significant role in the film.

However, despite its big messages and having its heart in the right place, nothing makes the film shine brighter than the acting. Both Radhika Apte and Akshay Kumar perform brilliantly as a newly-wed couple who constantly go through puzzling problems, whereas Sonam Kapoor – who plays a strong supporting role in the film – is promising as a high-society Delhi girl and plays it with utmost ease.

That being said, the film is definitely not without flaws! Throughout the narrative, various pieces of the film feel like montages and end up making the film feeling disjointed. At some places, one can even feel the story jumping to conclusions without giving the audience any reason to jump there as well. If that isn’t problematic enough, the film’s constant approach to giving out one message after another is sensory overload. Truth be told, at times the film’s main message turns secondary in front of other forced efforts of preaching.

Also read: ‘Padman’ under fire for plagiarism

Considered the world’s first film on this issue, Padman is a welcome narrative in the almost one and a half-century-long history of film. With what it loses in its weak parts, it gains with the fact that it’s a film with goodness filled in it. In short, one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that in this particular case, the message is bigger than the film. It simply asks you, if the coming of age for a girl is such a precious moment, then why is her menstrual cycle the cause of atonement?

Note: The film has still not been screened for viewing in Pakistan. The author saw and reviewed it in Dubai.

Shahjehan Saleem

The author is Contributing Editor at Something Haute as well as a professor in the Media Sciences department at SZABIST, Karachi. Socio-cultural theories and geography fill up the rest of his time.