The Cinema Station’s Rating: Second AC journey (4/5)
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte, Sonam Kapoor
R.Balki’s films have always had a subtle and stylish take on Indian women and his portrayal of India’s Padaman is another classy piece of cinema. Padman is the real-life story of Arunachalam, who is widely recognized for his vision and efforts on promoting menstrual hygiene in rural India. The film weaves through the hardships Arunachalam faced in his endeavors and brilliantly depicts his journey from a social outcast to a national hero.
So it all starts in a village in India, where Lakshmi (Akshay Kumar), is happily married to Gayathri (Radhika Apte) and they are happily settled in a compact family. Balki takes some time to introduce his main and immediate supporting characters and as soon as we are done understanding who is who, he places his inciting incident to the audience. It does not take the protagonist, Lakshmi much time to understand the lack of menstrual hygiene being followed by the women in his immediate surroundings and how detrimental it could be in the long run. Given the sensitivity of the topic, Mr.Balki carefully presents his problem statement on screen. The film takes us through multiple scenarios to highlight the rigid mentality, lack of awareness and the financial crunch that forces such detrimental conditions upon women in the rural space India.
In his urge to improve menstrual sanitation for the women in his family and village Lakshmi goes above and beyond going to the extent of making sanitary pads, but, his act is taken as a serious offense by the women in his family itself. The film raises and gets answers to a lot of questions that have lead to the current chain of events by placing a protagonist, who is logical, practical and caring in the middle of this situation. The character of Lakshmi is simple, to begin with, but evolves as the journey moves forward. The director focuses on Lakshmi and Gayathri’s relationship and how his care for her transforms into an undying urge to provide better sanitary conditions for her during her periods, to begin with.
The actors ensure the film keeps on track and the purpose is not lost. The introduction of Sonam Kapoor in a supporting role adds the much-needed refreshment and suave to the screen. The first half of the film showcases the issue from a rural background while during the second half Mr. Balki tries to shelve an urban angle into the film. Padman guarantees comedy, emotion, tears, and drama during its 140 minutes running time. Despite a bold subject, the film dons its dialogues and screenplay. The dialogues strike hard and go a long way in delivering the much-needed message.
The film calls curtains with an enigmatic yet simple speech from the Pad Man that is surely going to move you. There are moments where it seems that Padman does add the extra unnecessary Bollywood flavor, which tends to typecast this journey also into a romantic drama, but I believe the message the film delivers is far important than that. The film is bold despite the setting it is filmed in and definitely strikes on the chord it was expected to.
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