Akshay Kumar in a still from Padman.
Akshay Kumar, the star of the upcoming film Padman, says that he didn’t know anything about sanitary pads before he was 19-20, and has developed an understanding about menstruation only in the last two years.
Akshay Kumar wants to continue with Padman what he started with Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. That film, produced on a budget of Rs 18 crore, took over Rs 200 crore at the box office, and according to the star, brought about social change. Before Toilet... he told Firstpost, “there was 62% open defecation and post-release, it is 33%.” He hops Padman can spark a conversation about menstruation.
“I am already victorious with millions and millions of people talking about Padman on social media, men discussing with other men and asking each other whether they watched the Padman trailer and that it talks about sanitary pads. I am glad they are talking, they should know,” he said.
Padman official trailer
The film, directed by R Balki, is based in part on the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, an illiterate man who invented a low-cost machine to distribute sanitary pads and brought about a wave of social change. But Akshay Kumar doesn’t think his movie is about a sensitive topic.
“Firstly, do not call it a sensitive issue,” he said. “It (menstruation) is a natural process of a human body. It is time to get rid of those taboos attached to it and it is time to treat the issue maturely. Also, women should not shy away from talking about the issue and certainly should not whisper about it.”
Akshay said that India is mocked for its backward ideas about women’s hygiene. “Women told me that they used mud, burnt ash and dirty cloth to manage bleeding. It was shocking, it was horrifying. I met some foreigners and they laughed at us wondering we didn’t know what a sanitary pad was. Padman is an important film for our country. Nobody has ever made a film on this issue. Even in documentaries that I saw, sanitary pads are always hidden,” he said.
He added that he was “19 or 20” when he first learned about sanitary napkins. “I never held a pad in my hand. Nobody in my family asked me to buy sanitary napkin and it’s only in the last two years that I came to know about it in great detail. I have now learnt that menstruating women are considered ritually impure and polluted, and they are often isolated as untouchables. That they can’t touch pickles, enter kitchen, or go to temples, wash their hair. Then, too many girls end up dropping out of school because they don’t have supplies to manage their periods,” he said.
Akshay Kumar’s Padman will be in theatres on January 25, when it is expected to clash with Deepika Padukone’s controversial Padmaavat. Akshay also has 2.0, Gold and Kesari lined up.