Reviews / One-On-One With Akshay Kumar For His Latest Film “Pad Man”

One-On-One With Akshay Kumar For His Latest Film “Pad Man”

Reviews Feb 09, 2018

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar chats with Anokhi about his new film Pad Man, a true story following an entrepreneur who set out to battle the cultural stigma surrounding menstruation and give Indian women access to low-cost sanitary pads.

As superheroes continue to dominate the box office, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars is primed to get in on the action — well, sort of.

“America has Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. India has Pad Man.” That’s the tongue-in-cheek tagline for Pad Man, a new biopic directed by R. Balki and starring Akshay Kumar as Lakshmikant Chauhan, a fictionalized version of Arunachalam Muruganantham, the real-life Tamil Nadu social entrepreneur who, beginning in 1994, dedicated his life to developing a method for producing low-cost sanitary pads, after realizing that millions of women, his wife included, were compelled to use highly unsanitary rags during their period.

Pad Man
Pad Man: Lakshmikant Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) gets to work on his low-cost pad. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

Of course, in addition to the high price of regular pads, he also had to find a way to overcome a longstanding cultural stigma surrounding menstruation, to start a conversation on a serious, widespread women’s health concern that the country was wilfully ignoring, and turning himself into a bit of a pariah in the process.

The film also stars Radhika Apte as Chauhan’s conflicted wife Gayatri, and Sonam Kapoor as Pari, a young student who joins his cause. There’s even a cameo from the legendary Amitabh Bachchan.

It’s a story of real-life heroism that intrigued author Twinkle Khanna, Kumar’s wife, who turned it into a short story for her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, and now serves as a producer on the film; Khanna recently connected with another champion of women’s rights, Malala Yousafzai, at Oxford University for an event promoting not just the film, but the full-blown movement all involved hope it inspires.

Pad Man
Pad Man: Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) tests out his pads on himself, designing an artificial uterus filled with animal blood and going for a bike ride. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

Indeed, Pad Man hopes to be another key step in drawing attention to and de-stigmatizing an issue that’s still a long way from being resolved. That’s just one of the things that came up when we chatted with Mr. Kumar in advance of the film’s international release on Friday. Also up for discussion: the unique experience of working with his wife on this very personal project and what it was like popping on a pad of his own for one, much buzzed-about scene.

Matthew Currie: Does a film like this, which is about a serious issue but adopts a comedic tone, have a unique power to draw awareness and effect change?

Akshay Kumar: The audience spends their hard-earned money and comes to the theatre for a good time. So at the end of the day, the idea is to entertain and if we can achieve that without being preachy and at the same time manage to educate about the pressing issues of this country, then it’s a double whammy. So it’s a sincere attempt from our side; the rest we leave to the audiences.

Pad Man
Pad Man: Chauhan finds an ally in the form of management student Pari (Sonam Kapoor). Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

MC: One of the parts of the film that is getting the most buzz involves your character wearing a sanitary napkin. What was it like filming that, and in your mind, can that image alone, of having a superstar male actor wear a pad, work to de-stigmatize this taboo?

AK: I was aware of this scene [before filming] and I’m not going to lie, even a bit apprehensive, but that apprehension lasted for precisely 30 seconds. When I was looking at the pink panty and had to wear the pad, I had that fear but then I was OK.

MC: Your wife wrote the book and is a producer on the film. How did you first come aboard and what was it like collaborating with her on this?

AK: My wife actually first wrote a column on menstrual hygiene which got extremely positive feedback. And so she dug deeper into the subject and stumbled upon the amazing story of the real Pad Man, Arunachalam Muruganantham. After quite a bit of chasing, she managed to track him down in England and convinced him to let us make a film on his amazing journey. I was on board even before the film went into scripting, that’s how sold I was with the concept.

Collaborating with Tina was like being at home. I knew her vision like the back of my hand before I even stepped foot on set. Living with the creator of the film really helps you get into character, because for once, my home life was all about my role and the film, so I got to spend months researching the story as if it was my own . . .

Pad Man
Pad Man: Kumar’s wife Twinkle Khanna, who wrote the original short story, is the producer of the film. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

MC: What would you say to audiences who balk at even discussing this issue, let alone seeing a film about it?

AK: I cannot force people to see things the way they “should” be seen, but through the power of entertainment, I believe people will discover for themselves by purely watching this film, that this is something to be approached, not tossed aside and stamped on with the shameful label of “too taboo.”

MC: Do you feel a responsibility to use your fame to shine a light on underreported causes?

AK: There comes a time in one’s life when substance begins to matter more and more. I have established myself enough as an actor to now be able to venture into things that can benefit as well as entertain people. We need to start a conversation on menstruation and not be afraid to discuss the issues that have impacted women and girls worldwide for centuries.

In Pad Man, [my character shows] just how much [he’s] prepared to do to make [his] wife’s life a better one . . . Why should she be banished to the home with nothing but dirty rags for five days out of every month, that’s two months every year taken away from her because of menstruating in discomfort and backward thinking by everyone around her.

Pad Man
Pad Man: Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) unveils his revolutionary pads. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.

Main Image Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

Matthew Currie

Matthew Currie

Author

A long-standing entertainment journalist, Currie is a graduate of the Professional Writing program at Toronto’s York University. He has spent the past number of years working as a freelancer for ANOKHI and for diverse publications such as Sharp, TV Week, CAA’s Westworld and BC Business. Currie ...

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