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.

Hisss, or: She’s a Cold-hearted Snake

Okay so my pick this week isn’t strictly a Bollywood movie but it does star one of the industry’s most popular actresses – and there’s one dance number – so it stays. It’s also directed by a director I find fascinating and who has appeared on this blog once before.

It doesn’t take a genius to see why it this would appeal, it’s the tale of a vengeful snake goddess hellbent on saving her lover from a brash American villain. I know right, where do we sign up? (Netflix, naturally).

Hisss

Based on the Far Eastern myth of the snake woman who is able to take on human form.

Mallika Sherawat • Irrfan Khan • Jeff Doucette

Director: Jennifer Lynch • Year: 2010
IMDB Rating: 2.9/10 • My Rating: 2.5/5

Vengeance has a new sound.

*Spoilers*

My Review

Awful American George States (Doucette) – yes really! – has terminal brain cancer and six months to live. He’s in India with a crew to capture the goddess Nagin (a shape shifting snake woman) from whom he intends to extract the “Nagmani” stone, which will grant him immortality. Obviously. He forces his reluctant henchmen to kidnap her lover (a male cobra) during their love-making session – in the belief she will come to his rescue.

If you think this film will refrain from some incredibly awkward snake-based love scenes then you are mistaken. Also please note the opening disclaimer that assures us, the viewer, that all the snakes in the film are made of rubber. Just in case you were concerned.

Anywho. Nagin does indeed come, in the form of the delectable Snake Woman (Sherawat). When she is found by a local woman who calls the cops, Snake Woman is taken in by Detective Vikram Gupta (Khan) who in turn entrusts her to his lovely wife Maya (Divya Dutta) who works for the local women’s refuge. Not before she brutally murders two rapists who grab her at the Holi festival though.

In perhaps one of the most bizarre transformation scenes of all time, SW turns into a giant cobra and attacks the shit out of them both. When she eats and then regurgitates one of them, she leaves behind a very unusual piece of evidence – one that baffles the living shit out of Vikram and his coroner.

Vikram BTW has his own issues on the home front as he lives with a confused mother-in-law and his wife, who has recently miscarried their child. There’s a lot of sadness surrounding them and a lot of pressure as MIL is desperate for a grandchild. But Vik is distracted and as the bodies start to stack up, is increasingly confused by what it all means. Especially when they can’t account for the massive quantities of venom found in the bodies.

So, what of Snake Woman while all this going down? Well, if there weren’t so many rotten apples in the village, she wouldn’t have to keep murdering them, would she? It seems no abuser is safe and it’s beautiful. But for a goddess with a mission, she’s sure taking her sweet time getting to States’ evil lair. Love, if you’ve got time to sexily writhe up a lamp post, you have time to rescue your lover – it’s not rocket science.

States’ himself is in constant pain and he’s getting impatient waiting for our snake babe. When her lover starts to show signs of decline – being kept in an electrified tank would do it – he wipes Cobra shit on his man servant and sends him out into the wild to lure her in. Meanwhile, the news is rife with tales of a giant snake saving local women from horrible situations and Vik’s MIL – who prays nightly to Nagin – comes to him in a fever dream and tells him what’s going down. He slowly starts piecing it all together and figures the mysterious woman is the key to everything.

YOU THINK?!

Will States get what he needs to live out his life cancer free? Will Snake Woman get to her lover in time to save him? Will Vik and Maya ever have the much wanted baby they’ve been trying for for so long?

If you care, you know what to do.

My Comments

First up, the effects are terrible/incredible and I loved how grotesque it all is. There’s a hell of a lot of writhing around and if you’re not into naked chicks or soft-core snake porn, this might not be for you. The acting is shlocky at best but Irrfan Khan has a debonair charm and I love his wife, Maya.

The real star of the show though, is Maya’s amma who isn’t even credited that I can find. I don’t truly understand her but her devotion to the goddess Nagin is endearing and her conviction that Vikram is a girl amuses me. While the gorgeous Snake Woman has all the moves and looks banging naked, she doesn’t have any lines so I can’t really judge her. She attacks her murder scenes with relish though and I guess that’s all you need from a B-movie horror heroine.

I read somewhere that Jennifer Lynch disassociated herself from the film when the movie evolved from a love story into a horror movie but I think there are still some very sweet moments. Vik and Maya finally get the happy ending they’ve been dreaming of, while even Snake Woman gets some joy out of a tragic situation.

The moral to this story I believe, is: don’t be a fucking rapist/wife-beater and you’ll be okay. And you know what? Sure this is utter garbage but as far as revenge movies go, it’s still better than Peppermint.

What does my very own goddess think of this venomous B-movie? Would she get down and dirty with it in the mud, or shed it ASAP? Find out here.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, or: Papa Don’t Preach, I’m Keeping My Sweety

This week’s pick is only 2 hours long which is a blessing in comparison to last week but still waaaaay too long to get to the fucking point. Like, I get it, not everything is easy to come right out with but c’mon. Can we all just try to be a little more succinct?

Some love stories are not simple, Sweety’s is one such story. She has to contend with her over-enthusiastic family that wants to get her married, a young writer who is completely smitten by her, a secret that she harbours close to her heart.

Sonam KapoorAnil KapoorRajkummar Rao

Director: Shelly Chopra Dhar • Year: 2019
IMDB Rating: 5.5/10 • My Rating: 2.5/5

My Review

Sweety (Sonam Kapoor) is something of a catch. A kindhearted babe (what else?), she’s bound to marry a good man and live her best life just as soon as her father, Balbir (Anil Kapoor!) can find a decent one worthy of her. At a wedding she gets talking to Kuhu (Regina Cassandra), who’s brother is smitten with Sweety from across the room.

One day, by chance, Sweety waltzes into the life of struggling playwright Sahil (Rao). The pair have an impromptu chat about true love until Sweety is forced to flee the scene because she’s being chased by a strange man. Sahil goes with her and gets her to the Metro, where the pair are separated and Sahil ends up in a fight with her pursuer. At the police station afterwards, he learns that the dude is Sweety’s brother, Babloo (Abhishek Duhan). As the son of a famous film director, Sahil manages to use this connection to get released from custody and on the way out, he learns were Sweety lives, which is a town somewhere outside Delhi, where he lives.

With the help of set chef (personal assistant AND actress?) Mrs Chatro (Juhi Chawla), Sahil manages to cook up a plan to go to Sweety’s hometown and track her down. Which isn’t creepy at all. Here he starts to court our heroine but things are tricky since Sweety’s brother has stirred up trouble by telling the family she’s been sneaking off to see her Muslim boyfriend. Terrified she’ll have a difficult life and bring shame on the family by dating outside their religion, Dad grounds Sweety. Little does he know her real secret is far more scandalous.

(Sweety BTW is a big believer in the harder the obstacle, the more epic the love story – a sentiment I always believed myself before I learnt the hard way. I appreciate that we all need to learn from our own relationship mistakes but man, is that a pile of steaming love propaganda.)

So Sahil mistakes Balbir for the family chef and passes him a note for his girl. Balbir, it should be noted is a keen chef but his mother gives him constant shit because it isn’t a man’s role. When he watches cookery shows, she mocks him for becoming a woman. Which is kind of rich as he already works in fashion but okay, ma. So Balbir already understands what it’s like to have stifled dreams, something he might want to bear in mind later on.

This review is going to be very long if I don’t refine it just a tad – Sahil eventually gets back in touch with Sweety – and in with her family via the power of the fake acting class (that old chestnut) and they assume he’s the Muslim boyfriend. Drunk and in love at a family party, Sahil tells her how he feels – and she’s forced to tell him the truth: she’s in love with Kuhu!

When Shahil laughs at her, it seems all is lost. But Sweety is the bigger person and the two form a solid friendship when she tells him the whole story. She goes in hard about her feelings of isolation growing up, how she had believed nobody would ever love her – until Kuhu, who wants them to go and live in London together.

While a true friendship blossoms between the two, Balbir also connects with kooky divorcee Chatro. The pair bond over their love of cooking and Chatro, it turns out is rather a modern woman. When she tells Balbir that she’s happy with whatever her children choose do – marry or not – as long as they choose kind partners, he’s inspired – and grants Sweety his blessing to marry Shahil.

Which she considers for a second until he assures her he’s going to sort everything out, once and for all. Well, a fake play about lesbians ought to do it (with Sweety and Kuhu in the starring roles, naturally). But when the truth inevitably outs, will Balbir be man enough to stand beside his gay daughter?

My Comments

Oh fuck I cried at the end of this and because – *spoiler* – of course Daddy comes through. Sweety’s journey is heartbreaking and sadly I would think, only too common. The message is lovely and at the end, the fake play seemingly touches the life of a young girl in the same situation as Sweety was. In turn, I would think this movie could help a lot of people and is an interesting addition to the LGBT+ world cinema cannon.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit boring in places and I think that might just be down to its mammoth run-time. The performances are good and Anil Kapoor is a delight, as always. I adore the older women in this, grandma especially and Chatro is a breath of fresh air. Her dream is to act and she seems unperturbed every time someone tells her she’s no good.

Brother Babloo can suck it as the only family member who can’t cut his sister a god damn break. It’s 2019 bitch, deal with it. But, my main criticism, beyond the length, is that there are not enough songs (a fact I am expecting with stick in Jill’s craw too). What we do get musically wasn’t even subtitled so we could enjoy the lyrics, which are always the best bit.

What does Jill think of this Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga? Would she dip herself in honey and throw herself to the lesbians or shun it forever? Find out here.

Mubarakan, or: Films So Long You Need to Take a Nap Half-Way Through

DISCLAIMER: This is a light-hearted film review and not intended to defame, discredit or hurt the sentiments of any character, action, religion, profession or community. Also, if I get any of the plot mixed up it’s because A LOT happens, okay?

We’re trying something new this August: Bollywood movies. Let’s just say it’s going to be a very vibrant, dramatic and deliciously choreographed Summer round these parts. Join us?

Join Karan and Charan in a very crazy yet chaotic marriage of the year.

Anil KapoorArjun KapoorIleana D’Cruz

Director: Anees Bazmee • Year: 2017
IMDB Rating: 5.6/10 • My Rating: 3/5

My Review

Charanveer and Karanveer Singh (Arjun Kapoor) are identical twins who, following the tragic accidental death of their parents, find themselves separated at birth. Charan is sent to Punjab to be brought up by his proud uncle Baljeet (Pavan Malhotra), while Karan is raised by his aunt Jeeto (Ratna Pathak Shah) in London.

The boys know each other as cousins – or so I thought – but when we meet them as adults they seem very much aware that they are brothers. I guess when your face is the exact replica of your cousin’s it raises a few questions. In between Jeeto and Baljeet stands younger brother Kartar (Anil Kapoor) who also lives in London on an estate he calls “mini Punjab” with his white, English butler (and PA?).

Charan is a mild-mannered, religious boy who wouldn’t say boo to a goose and certainly not to his old man. Karan is slicker than your average and has an eye for fit ladies, much to the chagrin of his feisty girlfriend Sweety (D’Cruz). He doesn’t mean any harm though and does love her, even though they bicker all the time.

Things get messed up when Sweety inadvertently insults Jeeto in a shopping centre. Although Jeeto despises her on sight, she doesn’t twig that Sweety is Karan’s girlfriend and Karan does nothing to correct the situation. And he certainly can’t bring himself to tell his aunt that this is the woman he wants to marry.

When Jeeto and her husband engineer a marriage for Karan to great catch Binkle (Athiya Shetty), he is forced to talk his way out of proceedings by convincing his uncle that he wants to focus on his career – launching a chain of restaurants.

In his place he offers up Charan as Binkle’s would-be groom. Which sorts everything, right?

WRONG. Charan also has a girlfriend. Like Sweety, Nafisa (Neha Sharma) is a firecracker too, a lawyer who’s sick of Charan’s shit because he doesn’t have the kahonnies to tell his family about her. The issue is that she’s Muslim and his father/uncle is very against that. Not even exclusively, he’s down on any religion that doesn’t match his. And Charan is nothing if not a yes-man.

So, Charan is shipped to London to meet Binkle and her family, including father Sandhu (Rahul Dev) and her brother Munpreet (Karan Kundrra). He doesn’t even mention it to Nafisa until he’s landed and only then because she asks him what he’s up to. Reluctant to be married off, Charan has already called on his uncle Kartar to help him sabotage the meeting. Inventive as anything, Kartar convinces Charan to pretend to be a druggie.

But when Charan claps eyes on Binkle, something changes. She’s flipping stunning, gentle and perfect – and a very wholesome spark is ignited. Yey! Except, the drug plan falls into place despite Charan’s attempt to abort the mission and Sandhu insults Baljeet, claiming he’ll never let his family connect with the likes of theirs.

Phew! That’s only about a quarter of the film. To make amends to Sandhu, to whom they owe a great gratitude, Jeeto and her family offer Karan to Binkle instead. Which is kind of awks. In response, Sweety is presented as a wifely option for Charan – all the while Jeeto still bears a massive grudge toward her but at least she isn’t marrying her son/nephew. Still with me?

I can’t remember what the final straw is but there’s discord between brother and sister – and Jeeto and Baljeet become estranged. In defiance against his sister, Baljeet (who BTW is very handsome) makes a vow that he doesn’t need her help to marry off Karan and that he’ll have him spliced on the 25th of the next month.

Hence the Sweety match.

Kartar, torn between his siblings, manages to get them both to agree to have the weddings in London and on the same day.

MEANWHILE… Nafisa is fuming and ends up coming to London too, there are chance meetings, arguments and most importantly there is love and incredible dance numbers that rarely make sense. My favourite song is unquestionably Take Your Lovely Goggles Off.

When Nafisa falls for Binkle’s brother Munpreet, everything almost slots perfectly into place. Binkle has Charan, Sweety loves Karan – and Nafisa has snared Munpreet. If only the twins had the bottle to just admit what they want and stand up to their families!

Well, wedding day comes around and I’m woman enough to admit that, when Kartar is forced to make a heartwarming speech to bring his brother and sister back together, I cried. For a super goofy, melodramatic slice of solid gold Rom Com, it got me.

My Comments

There is absolutely no good reason for this to be two and a half hours long though. I had to have a nap 90 minutes in. There is so much to-ing and fro-ing that I got lost a lot. I’m not even sure this review is fully accurate.

I did find myself getting frustrated a lot with all the secrecy and the boys’ reluctance to stick up for themselves – and there’s also a fair amount of waiting around for God to make things happen. But I’m not from a devout Indian family. Kartar’s speech filled in a lot of blanks for me about fear of being thrown out of the family.

Some of the acting seems deliberately hammy, everyone is very aesthetically pleasing (looking at you again, Uncle Baljeet) and the colour is wonderful. It’s very fun and as my first full length Bollywood movie experience, I’m very much excited for the next one.

Netflix seems to have an array of incredibly interesting looking Indian movies at the moment and I’m already trying to work out if Hisss technically counts as a Bollywood movie for my next pick.

What does my Technicolor angel think of this Bollywood fever dream? Would she rope in into a flash mob in the middle of Picadilly or reject its marriage proposal cold? Find out here.