By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | February 09, 2018
Rating: 1.5 / 5
The essence: The film is about hammering a point again and again till it gets tiresome, leads to boredom and reeks of lack of imagination. To add to the viewer’s woes, a love angle is thrown in, taking the focus off the pads into the emotions of Rhea (Sonam Kapoor), a tabla player, who is an accidental guinea pig for Lakshmikant Chauhan’s pads.
The story of Arunachalam Muruganantham from Coimbatore, a school drop-out who made it his life’s mission to provide low-cost sanitary napkins to poor women across rural India is well known across urban India. It has also been lauded internationally.
So how will a biopic on him shape up? Will it be perfect like his low-cost sanitary pads, or will it hit road blocks? R Balki ventured to go where Muruganantham went, between women’s legs as Gayatri (Radhika Apte) refers to her husband Lakshmikant Chauhan’s (Akshay Kumar) obsession of forcing his hand-made pads into her hands for a trial run. “Stop focusing about the problem between women’s legs,” she scolds him, fed-up of his constant obsession of intervening in her ‘five-day’ sabbatical where she has to spend time in the verandah, away from the other family members.
Balki, who gave us memorable films like Cheeni Kum and Paa along with the not-so-memorable Ki & Ka, hits roads blocks aplenty, right from the start. The movie just does not move forward. Since we all know that Muruganantham succeeded, as an audience you want to see the plot move. But Lakshmi (as Akshay is referred to in the movie by his family and friends) is constantly figuring out ways to stop the leak, hygienically. When his wife and sisters refuse to try out his pads, he goes to his married sister’s house to gift her the pad only to be rebuked by her and her in-laws. He then ventures into a medical school. When even that attempt fails he climbs up a ladder to offer the same to a girl from his village who has just been initiated into the ritual, and is resting in the verandah. All hell breaks loose, his wife is taken away by her brothers, his mother and sisters leave him, he leaves the village.
Lakshmi continues in his quest for the perfect low-cost pad until he hits the ‘eureka moment’ and is then celebrated. What is picturized well are his emotions when he refuses to make money by patenting his innovation. “Money will make only one man smile,” he says. “Low-cost pads will make millions smile.”
That apart, the rest of the film is about hammering a point again and again till it gets tiresome, leads to boredom and reeks of lack of imagination. To add to the viewer’s woes, a love angle is thrown in taking the focus off the pads into the emotions of Rhea (Sonam Kapoor), a tabla player, who is an accidental guinea pig for Lakshmi’s pads. The story then takes a ‘giant bollywoodish leap’ going nowhere!
For me, the moment this film hits the high notes (highlighting the current political situation) was when Rhea tells Lakshmi, after an initial moment of awkwardness when she reaches for his lips: “Tu gaon hain, main sheher. Yeh Digital India bhi nahi jhodh paaya.” (You are a village, I am city; this even Digital India has not been able to join). She’s in love with him; he is confused because his wife has gone away. She wants to give him his space. He goes off awkwardly. She wants to hear him speak in English, one last time, he confesses that she is his everything.
There is no performance that stands out and captivates you. Radhika Apte hammers out one emotion throughout: wide-eyed, open-mouthed, silly subdued. Akshay Kumar gets tiresome and shines only when he gives a speech to the members of the UN. Sonam Kapoor looks lost. Neither does her role have any meaning.
Padman is a long, boring documentary.
Having said that, Balki has taken a bold step to highlight the work of Arunachalam Muruganantham, but he has lost the plot in translating it on celluloid. Moreover, at two hours 20 minutes, this pad story is a tad tiresome. If Paa could have been interpreted beautifully on celluloid, why couldn’t Muruganantham’s beautiful story?
Watch Arunachalam Muruganantham’s videos online for a better feel of his achievements!
Producer: Twinkle Khanna, Gauri Shinde, Prernaa Arora, Arjun N Kapoor
Director: R Balki
Star Cast: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte, Sonam Kapoor