Menstruation is a natural process like eating, talking and sleeping and is also a bad taboo in our society. Most of us loathe talking about it and yet the existence of human race can’t be defined without it. And Padman is one such film in the history of entertainment which is challenging the stigma around periods in India. It’s the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham who came up with the brilliant idea of producing low cost biodegradable sanitary pads and educating people irrespective of any sex, the importance of menstrual health. While Arunachalam Muruganantham, starrer Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte, Director R Balki and Producer Twinkle Khanna were in the capital promoting the film, they also shared their views regarding menstruation hygiene and the need to break the taboo.
1. Muruganantham Sir, how did this idea of producing low-cost sanitary pads in your village get into you?
Muruganantham: I did this for my wife. I came to know that my wife and other village women are unable to afford sanitary napkins because they were costly. We have to cut down half of our milk budget to buy them. This concerned me and I decided to produce it on my own. Since menstruation is still a taboo in our society, I was not backed up by my wife or my sisters. I cannot see my wife and other women suffer the unhygienic state as they use rags during the periods. I wanted to break this taboo and educate women and men of our society regarding the menstruation hygiene. I want every boy and men to talk about it and not be ashamed of it. Even women also.
2. Akshay sir, were you aware of periods in your early life?
Akshay: Honestly no. My family never discussed this at home. But slowly I came to know about this. I never knew that women in rural areas have to face such difficulties during their periods. They don’t have an access to a sanitary pad which is the basic need. Even before shooting for this film, these facts surprised me. When I met Arunachalam Sir, I decided to bring this movie in front of a larger audience. My wife also supported me and educated me further regarding menstruation I feel that when a girl hits puberty it should be celebrated.
Radhika: When I hit my puberty, my family celebrated it. And I want every family should do the same. And should continue celebrating it. They should not hide it and make her feel ashamed and uncomfortable.
3. When it comes to sending out any message through films, how much do you think it impacts the rural audience?
Akshay: I made Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and it created an impact on people. The film was supported by the government, the media, and audience. I hope this time also they understand the importance of this issue and come out to support. I have studied a lot for the past two years, met rural women and got to know that they suffer most during the 5 days of their periods. People around them impose all kinds of restrictions. I want this scenario to change. Every father, brother, the husband should be aware.
And men have already started discussing sanitary pad in public spaces, so this is kind of victory or a stepping stone.
Twinkle: People change the channel whenever sanitary pad advertisement pops up on the television. It will be more helpful if they show red liquid instead of blue. And people won’t feel uncomfortable while they come to watch the film. The base of the film is entertaining. Otherwise, it will be like you are lecturing your children and you become the muted television. Your mouth is moving but they can’t hear you. So the same way we have made this movie entertaining so that the message actually reaches people. After 2-3 mins you’ll get immersed in the story. It’s not only about menstruation but also about a man who is a triumph.
4. Ma’am, how would you like to encourage women to raise a voice on issues concerning them without a creating much of the pseudo-feminism chaos?
Twinkle: I would ask the women to be financially independent. They need to have a firm ground beneath their feet. This provides a lot of security to them and then they become fearless. If you are dependent on someone, then you aligned to his or her sensibilities. You need to have a base first and then fight back.
5. Radhika, Padman came with a sanitary revolution on social media which is really interesting and brave. But do you believe this revolution will continue and not just become another social media trendsetter? Because we can’t expect people to come out of the theatre and start talking about menstruation and change overnight.
Radhika: Our culture is deep-rooted but we have to do what we can to change the situation for the better. Yeah, awareness on social media is one thing because I feel social media only set trend. It is for the time being. Another way to bring the change is through education. It’s a practical thing and should be taught to both the genders together. It should be part of the school curriculum. I believe that it had stirred the nation already and it will not stop.