‘PadMan’ – Akshay Kumar, A Superhero for our Troubled Times

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Akshay Kumar in Pad Man

Akshay Kumar in ‘PadMan’

‘PadMan’ – Akshay Kumar, Superhero in Troubled Times

As each new day brings shocking new stories of men’s caddish behavior and a barrage of #MeToo hash tags, you can get almost swamped in a blanket of despair.

As one by one, real life heroes turn out to have feet of clay, you almost lose your faith in mankind.

Over the past few months, right from the American president through assorted politicians, Hollywood bigwigs and business head honchos and power brokers, you’ve found it really is a man’s world and a crass place with little respect for women or women’s lives.  Be it America or India or any other place in the world, women’s encounters with men at work or play seem to end badly.

Are there no good men left? Can men and women ever share a common humanity?

Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte in Pad Man

Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte in ‘PadMan’

So it is a pleasure to have a bit of respite and see ‘Pad Man’ – a film which is a true story about a very different kind of man, a man who respects all women, and wants to make their lives easier, better and full of dignity. ‘Pad Man’ is a fictionalized account of  the life of Padmashri Arunachalam Muruganatham, the man who revolutionized the manufacture of  low-cost sanitary napkins in India. Lakshmi,  as he is known,  is simple and uneducated but his concern for empowering women takes him on an unconventional journey.

A Sneak Peek –  PadMan

As the movie’s production notes explain: “His simplicity of thought, his resilience, his focus and his complete disregard for convention finally lead him to his destiny.  A machine that can make a pad! The revolution that follows…from spreading menstrual hygiene, to empowering women, to starting mini cooperatives, to a vision of making India a 100% pad using country, to accolades, to international glory and to a final resolution of his personal life, makes the rest of the feature ‘Pad Man’. His journey to make India a 100% pad using country goes on…even today.”

This kind of genuine concern and activism from a man on behalf of women leaves you exhilarated – it shows you there can be caring and sharing, rather than objectifying women. The sexes can be friends and can watch out for each other, as compassionate human beings, as travelers on the same road.

Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor in 'Pad Man'

Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor in ‘PadMan’

Playing the role of ‘PadMan’ is none other than Akshay Kumar, with Sonam Kapoor and Radha Apte as the women in his life. Akshay’s  stature as an actor and as a man has really grown with his own exemplary private life and the roles he has taken recently. His earlier film ‘Toilet: EK Prem Kahani’ also looks at a serious problem in rural India – the lack of toilets in homes. Women who have to use the outdoors struggle with their self-respect and security. This heartwarming movie, also directed by R.Balki ,  once again featured Akshay as a man who goes to all lengths to fight a festering social taboo in order to do right by the woman he loves and to win basic dignity for her.

A PadMan’s Life

This actor does take on unconventional roles and offbeat topics which have such an impact on a large country like India which still has so many social taboos to fight. Bollywood is an extremely popular medium that can take on traditional bugaboos in a light-hearted way and yet have an impact on millions of people. Akshay Kumar does it with humor and heart, and makes the world a better place in the darkened auditorium. In this venture, his wife Twinkle Khanna who wrote the story based on the real life of Muragantham, and produced the film, is Akshay’s true partner.

Many movie-goers do absorb these values and take those progressive ideas back with them into the world outside. So if you’re feeling swamped by all the bad guys, the liars and the selfish men who seem to be in every society, enjoy a happy reprieve, a different kind of superhero who does exist both in the reel and real world – Akshay Kumar’s PadMan!

 

The Two PadMen

 

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Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

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