Pad Man, or: End Period Poverty NOW

The last movie in our Bollywood Month and at least it has the decency to have some half-way good songs. Not much dancing though. It shares many characteristics of the movies we’ve reviewed this week (melodramatic, colourful, over two hours long) but sets itself apart by being less about that ol’ devil called love and more about… sanitary products.

Pad Man

Upon realizing the extent to which women are affected by their menses, a man sets out to create a sanitary pad machine and to provide inexpensive sanitary pads to the women of rural India.

The True Story of a Real Super Hero.

*Spoilers*

My Review

Lakshmi (Kumar) is a doting new husband to Gayatri (Apte), as well as a devoted son and brother. He’d do pretty much anything for her comfort and when he learns that the women in his family are expected TO LIVE OUTSIDE FOR FIVE DAYS while they bleed, he’s horrified. He’s even more shocked when he finds Gayatri hand washing a filthy period rag – one, as he so delicately puts it, he wouldn’t clean his bicycle with. So he does the sensible thing and visits the drug store where he’s expected to part with 55 rupees for the privilege of taking home a small pack of pads.

Alas, Gayatri is too ashamed to use the expensive product and begs Lakshmi to return them before her mother-in-law finds out. There is so much shame surrounding menstruation within his family, with the women accepting their miserable lot once a month and Lakshmi just can’t get his head around it. So at the first opportunity he chats to a doctor, who commends him for even noticing the women’s periods. Doc gives him some shocking facts about the illnesses women could pick up from their dirty jam rags – and Lakshmi decides to do something about it.

Gayatri is dubious when her husband presents her with his period pad prototype, one he has cobbled together using cheap materials from around the village, but after some persuasion she gives it a go. Unfortunately it’s a total wash out and the subsequent blood bath in her sari is uh, hard to wash out. Lakshmi had hoped she’d love them so much she’d share them with all the women in their lives but first he must go back to the drawing board.

So begins a series of failed attempts to get them to actually work to the appropriate standard. Lakshmi fails again and again – and more than this, his obsession begins to cause a serious rift between him and his family. His wife is constantly mortified, the neighbours think he’s a perverted madman and everything is slipping away. When he is caught experimenting with animal blood on his latest version of the pad, it is the final straw. Gayatri’s horrible family insists that she leave him and come home.

Years pass and Lakshmi refuses to give up – or to stop challenging the taboo surrounding menstruation. He does some research on better materials and builds four inexpensive (in the grand scheme of things) machines to start making the pads in bulk. A chance meeting with modern babe Pari (Kapoor) leads to him giving her one of the pads when she needs it most. Later they strike up a friendship and she gives him some useful feedback. She also suggests he compete at a big innovation fair in Delhi with his machines. Well of course he wins ‘Life-Changing Innovation of the Year’ and enough money to keep business ticking over.

As his wife prepares to file for divorce, so Lakshmi’s star rises. He hires a group of local women to work in the pad factory and even travels to New York City to speak at the UN. All the while getting closer and closer to the lovely Pari who has been nothing but his head cheerleader the entire time. Without her they never would have been able to sell the produce, given that he’s a dude and only women can talk to women about women’s things. Well duh.

She’s also the one who persuades him to sell his first factory to one of the women and set up a new one in the next town (and on and on). Thus putting him one step closer to his dream of making one million jobs for one million women across the country.

On the cusp of something very real happening between Pari and Lakshmi, he receives a telephone call that changes everything. What’s Pad Man to do?

My Comments

So I started this movie believing Lakshmi to be the most enlightened and romantic man on the planet. Don’t worry, I am still a fan of all he’s achieved but there’s also a lot of him telling women he knows better and ignoring their obvious distress at talking about it. Sure, ultimately he’s changed the world by never losing sight of his vision, but there are a few moments a little sensitivity wouldn’t of gone amiss.

It’s interesting to compare the modern thinking of Pari and her family versus the small village mentality of Gayatri and hers. None of this is her fault though, internalised shame is a thing and generations of her family have been taught that periods are unholy. How do you argue with that?

I can’t deny this movie didn’t get to me, it was fascinating actually and unlike the last few Bollywood numbers, the two hours+ seemed to pass quickly.

I can’t quite work out Pari’s justification for not going after her man though. She does a little speech in the back of a cab that makes no sense and apparently never sees him again. Lakshmi is a good man whose end goal was always just to make his wife’s life easier so divorce was never really a part of his future.

The story is astonishing and to be honest, it was a joy learning more about this man. I had no idea but shouldn’t have been so surprised that women were/are still treated like actual dogs during their period. Lakshmi calculated that these same ladies spent two months of the year just sitting around doing nothing because of their monthly visitor. That’s a lot of wasted time.

Film details:

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte, Sonam Kapoor
Director: R. Balki
Year: 2018
IMDB Rating: 8/10
My Rating:
4/5

What does wifey think of this biopic? Would she let it sleep outside on the porch or win Most Innovative in its honour? Find out here.

No Big Deal

It would have been nice to have had a heroine like Emily growing up. Even if she is 75 times cooler than I’ve ever been. 

Navigating all your normal rites of passage in a fat body can be a minefield – friendship, school, the future, shagging, ROMANCE – but Emily doesn’t see why she should change. She’s well aware she’s one of the smartest in her year at school. She’s also cute, funny and ‘good at music’. While she still has all the normal teenage insecurities, she’s coming to realise it’s not her body holding her back, it’s the people around her and their attitudes toward it. 

RELATEABLE, MUCH?!

Emily worries about being left behind by her friendship group – and as the last to lose her virginity and get a boyfriend, she wonders if it’s the way she looks that’s the problem. Her mother is on a constant diet, imparting her own health wisdom on her daughter which kind of puts a dampener on their relationship. It also doesn’t help when she meets Joe, to whom she has an instant attraction. Could he possibly like her too?

Well of course he does because contrary to popular opinion, fat babes gets action to. But Joe’s not without his own problems and Emily has enough to contend with without wondering that she’s enough. Like where to go to university, a newly-slim best pal and general life stuff.

I read this in a day and mostly in the bath. Each chapter begins with a suitable song title which is cool. Given Emily is a some time DJ (and so is the author), it’s a nice touch. It also personalises it, reminding me of the feelings that went with the music I listened as I grew up.

Honestly, it’s refreshing to read about a fat protagonist, one that doesn’t have a makeover at the end. One that knows her worth despite societal pressure, one not willing to settle for anything less that the very best.

I enjoyed the last few chapters so much. As Emily works out Joe’s deal and subsequently refuses to accept it, I whooped. I also like the advice Emily gives to her friends. It’s completely balanced and wise beyond its years. There are flourishes that really suit the character and remind me too of all the reasons I’ve followed Bethany on Twitter for so long. Particularly the moment she asks her crush if he ever consumes art by women.

Emily is a role model for the age and I would love to spend more time in her world.

Book details:

No Big Deal
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books; Main Market edition (8 Aug. 2019)
ISBN-10: 1509870059
ISBN-13: 978-1509870059
Bought new paperback for myself

What are you reading?