Go Watch ‘Padman’, And Watch It With Your Sons And Daughters 

by Aravindan Neelakandan - Feb 16, 2018 05:45 PM +05:30 IST
Go Watch ‘Padman’, And Watch It With Your Sons And Daughters Still from Padman (Twitter.com/PadmanTheFilm)
  • . . .because the humanity of any gender is complete only in its respectful empathy of the other gender

Sanitary napkins have always been a subject of awkward jokes for boys.  And popular culture of the socialist 1980s, in which I grew up, through its movies and magazines, always contributed to such a mindset.

The movie Padman presents a romantic account of the real life story of Arunachalam Muruganandam, a school dropout, who in his attempt to impress his wife, started his quest for a low-cost sanitary napkin and ended up becoming an inspiring social entrepreneur. The movie is romantic sans the hip-gyrating dream numbers and insipid jokes in the name of humour.

I watched the movie in a Chennai theatre. We were all of twenty people in the hall; perhaps because the movie was in Hindi?

But as a Tamil, I felt pride and shame at the same time. I feel proud because the movie celebrates the achievement of a Tamil and ashamed because, while there are a lot of pseudo-progressive Hollywood movies which cater to Tamil chauvinism, we needed a Hindi film to take the legacy of a great achievement of a Tamil to the world.

The dialogues are sharp. The 'English' speech that ‘Padman’ makes before his New York audience may seem melodramatic to art puritans but it is passionate in its rendering and has a strong message combined with a sincerity that made (even the limited) audience (in the theatre I watched) clap with respect and approval.

The truth that the humanity of any gender is complete only in its respectful empathy of the other gender, has been very well brought out in the movie.

Also, that the director took this idea and made a movie without any masala compromise is again a bold statement. There are subtle sub-streams in the movie, like the difference between real and bogus spirituality, ability of the village butcher to empathise with the agony of the hero, the nun looking at anything as a chance to evangelise, the soft criticism of purda etc., which do not stand out loud, but go smoothly with the movie.

The way Lakshmikant, the hero, rejects the idea of a patent, brings to mind the innovator of the famous Jaipur foot, who also refused to patent his innovation. The Bose Institute too, as a policy, never patents any of its inventions. This inherent rejection of patenting has its roots in the Indic value system.

We learn about Muruganandam from the title and we also learn that the National Innovation Foundation (incidentally set up by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-1, and got a major boost during NDA-2) is one of the supporters of the movie. The foundation bridges a major gap between science and technology and society in our country.

So, are we witnessing a change in our society? The Prime Minister speaks about the need for toilets in his Independence Day speech and a 'sanitary napkins' village technologist becomes a Bollywood hero. In its own way, the PM's drive has contributed to this change. But then, nobody in the establishment media is going to praise him.

All in all, here is a movie that deserves standing ovation. See it with your family – particularly, your sons and daughters.

Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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