Columbia Pictures, Mrs. Funnybones Movies, SPE Films India, KriArj Entertainment, Cape Of Good Films and Hope Productions’ Pad Man (UA) is a biopic on Arunachalam Muruganantham, the social entrepreneur from Coimbatore who invented a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine so that the poorest women in every corner of India could maintain hygiene during their menstrual cycles by being able to afford low-cost sanitary pads instead of relying on unhygienic pieces of cloth.
Lakshmi (Akshay Kumar), who lives in a small town, Maheshwar, gets married to Gayatri (Radhika Apte). He dotes on her and wants her to be happy at all cost. Living with the couple are Lakshmi’s mother (Jyoti Subhash) and two younger sisters (Parul Chouhan and Soumya Vyas). Another sister (Mrinmayee Godbole) is married and lives with her husband and in-laws.
Lakshmi is disturbed by the poor hygiene observed by wife Gayatri during her monthly periods. One day, he buys a packet of sanitary pads for her but she refuses to use them due to their high price. This sets his mind thinking about the crores of women who aren’t able to maintain hygiene because of the affordability factor. He consults his doctor (Umesh Damle) who tells him that many women contract diseases because of lack of hygiene during their periods and some have to pay with their lives. Obsessed with Gayatri’s well-being, he himself prepares sanitary napkins using cotton wool but when Gayatri uses them, she realises that they don’t serve the purpose. He makes alterations but when they fail to make life easier for Gayatri, she asks him to simply let her be. Unwilling to give up, Lakshmi now tries to convince girls and women in his town to use the indigenously-prepared sanitary napkin. On one such occasion, his over-enthusiasm backfires on him and he and his family have to bear the ignominy that comes with it. His devastated mother sends his two younger sisters to stay with the elder married sister so that they can avoid the barbs that would come their way because of Lakshmi treading into the female and taboo domain.
Left with no option, Lakshmi actually himself tries to judge the functionality of his sanitary napkins by using them himself but that experiment goes so horrendously wrong that he and his family have to face the wrath of everyone around. Gayatri’s brothers (Sanjay Singh and Abhimanyu Sarkar) take her away because they are ashamed of Lakshmi’s actions. Left with no option, Lakshmi leaves his town but not his dream.
He seeks help from people including a kid and does a lot of research till he realises that he ought to be using cellulose fibre instead of cotton wool for making sanitary napkins. He soon develops a low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing machine and makes sanitary napkins which cost only Rs. 2 a piece. By sheer chance, Pari (Sonam Kapoor) becomes the first person to try his pad. Hearing his story, she takes his invention of the low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing machine to the National Innovation Competition where he gets a special prize of the President of India. Pari and her father (Suneel Sinha) get him media coverage and the stage now seems to be set for Lakshmi’s machine to become a cash cow. But Lakshmi is saddened by this prospect as his aim has all along been to make affordable sanitary pads for poor women in the country. He is unwilling to sell his pad manufacturing machine as he fears, those who buy his machine at an astronomical price would then make sanitary pads and sell them at exorbitant prices to recover their cost of machines. This, he concludes, would defeat the very purpose of making low-cost sanitary pads.
Pari realises the goodness and noble thoughts behind Lakshmi’s innovation and joins him to further his business and aim. Not only does Lakshmi’s business take off in a big way but he is soon called by the United Nations to deliver a lecture about it. The people of his town welcome him with open arms when Lakshmi is given a Padma Award. Gayatri, who has all along waited for Lakshmi, comes back to him after her brothers realise their folly. Lakshmi’s mother and sisters also realise their mistake.
The story, based on Twinkle Khanna’s concept, is heavily inspired by the true-life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham. The story is very inspirational and interesting. The screenplay, written by R. Balki and Swanand Kirkire, is intelligent because it infuses a lot of humour and even some emotions in the drama. A taboo topic like menstrual cycle of ladies has been handled with reasonable maturity. Although the emotional quotient is a bit less, it does add to the drama. Had the writers made some scenes tear-jerking, the impact would’ve been wonderful. Having said that, it must be added that the humour in the screenplay keeps the atmosphere light and takes care that the film does not appear like a documentary. There are some wonderfully written scenes like the one in which Gayatri says, she would try using Lakshmi’s sanitary pads, or the one in which Lakshmi lets Gayatri return to her paternal home because she can’t face the humiliation, or the scene in which he decides to turn Gayatri’s humiliation (because of his over-enthusiasm) into pride, or the speech made by Lakshmi at the United Nations in awkwardly-structured English, or the scene in which Lakshmi refuses to make money by selling his patent, etc. It is scenes like the above which make the drama so heartwarming that the audience would love it. Lakshmi’s speech at the United Nations, especially, would be greeted by the audience in the cinemas with rounds of applause. However, it must be added that because the topic of the film is taboo, the drama would be more accepted by the city and evolved audience and the multiplex-frequenting viewers. The first half is slow and also uses very basic techniques to explain points. But the post-interval portion is fast-paced as also very interesting and engaging. The duo’s dialogues are very good and several of them are excellent.
Akshay Kumar lives the role of Lakshmi. He brings forth the honesty and integrity of the character so wonderfully that the audience roots for him. Consequently, his victory becomes the victory of the audience. It must be added here that Akshay has over the last couple of years established a loyal base of audience which waits for his entertaining films with a socially relevant message – and this base of viewers will simply love him in the film. Radhika Apte shines in the role of Gayatri. Her expressions are so beautiful that she often conveys what is to be conveyed, even before she has spoken her lines. It is delightful to watch the lady act. Sonam Kapoor, as Pari, has an endearing role and she mostly remains true to her character. Her performance in a couple of scenes is found lacking but that’s hardly anything. In most of the scenes, she acts effectively. Suneel Sinha makes his presence felt as Pari’s father. Jyoti Subhash has her moments in the role of Lakshmi’s mother. Mrinmayee Godbole leaves a mark as Lakshmi’s married sister. Amitabh Bachchan lends tremendous star value in a special appearance. Parul Chouhan and Soumya Vyas lend decent support as Lakshmi’s younger sisters. Yogesh Shreekant Pandey (as butcher Bablu) leaves a very good mark. A.R. Rama (as Harya), Shriram Jog (as senior partner at Lakshmi’s work shop), Santosh Rege (as the other partner), Amarjeet Singh (as the lazy worker at the workshop), Gaurav Sarathe (as the injured worker), Mru dul Satam (as Tinku), Riva Bubber (as Tinku’s mother), AjayDave (as Tinku’s father), Sanjay Singh and Abhimanyu Sarkar (both as Gayatri’s brothers), Priyanka Dubey (as Gaya tri’s sister-in-law), Umesh Damle (as the doctor at Maheshwar), Karan Bhogle (as the husband of Lakshmi’s sister), Shabbir Modi (as the malmal shopkeeper), Angshuman Thukan (as the hosiery shopkeeper), Ajay Singh Pal (as the cotton wool shop keeper), Manoj Pemgirkar (as the medical shopkeeper), Amit Sharma (as the man on the moped), Praveen Ojha (as the school teacher), Himika Bose, Minaz Frutiwala, Richa Joshi, Sonal Bhojwani, Nandini Shrivastav (all five as medical college students), Rakesh Chaturvedi (as professor), master Wahib Kapadia (as the professor’s child), Rajesh Tiwari (as the moneylender), Kajal Khanchandani (as the moneylender’s wife), Harshada Patil (as Pinky), Shrishti Wadhwani, Tapasya Dasgupta, Priyanka Pawar (all three as Pari’s friends), Urmila Mahanta (as Savitri), Wasim Khan (as Savitri’s husband), Vanshika (as the school-girl), Salma Khan (as the school-girl’s mother), Reuben Is rael (as the IIT principal), I.P. Sawhney (as Pari’s interviewer), Aman Singh Mukar (as the United Nations interpreter) and the others provide able support.
Balki’s direction is excellent. Distinction marks to him for not allowing the film to appear like a documentary. Amit Trivedi’s music is very nice. The ‘Aaj se teri’ song is already a hit and it will grow further in popularity. Its simple tune and its easy-on-the-lips lyrics (Kausar Munir) are its biggest plus points, not to forget its magical rendition (by Arijit Singh). The ‘Hu ba hu’ song and the title track are also appealing songs. Kausar Munir’s lyrics are interesting. Brinda’s choreography is in synch with the film’s mood. Amit Trivedi’s background music is effective. P.C. Sreeram’s cinematography is very good. Rupin Suchak’s production designing is appropriate. Chandan Arora does a fine job of the editing.
On the whole, Pad Man is an enjoyable entertainer with a good message. It will score at the box-office and will keep everyone associated with it, happy. It has chances of joining the Rs. 100-crore club.