9 Feb 2018

Pad Man: A Superb, Gripping Social Drama

Based on the incredible life mission of Arunachalam Muruganantham, Pad Man is a largely impressive reinterpretation of single-mindedness in an earthy North Indian setting.

Newly married mechanics-inclined Lakshmikant Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) is appalled at his wife Gayatri (Radhika Apte) using a dirty rag cloth during her periods. He finds buying a branded sanitary pad too expensive, so out of love and deep concern, he sets about making a cheaper sanitary pad from local raw materials. The troubles for Lakshmikant or Lakshmi begin then, as he is up against prejudice, taboo and shame. He is labeled a pervert and an outcast. Will Lakshmi continue to pursue his mad passion, against all odds?

Straight, Sincere, Funny Treatment   
Writer and director R.Balki borrows faithfully from Arunachalam's life and transplants the real Tamil Nadu background to a village in Madhya Pradesh with great conviction. Pity that a superstitious,  outdated and orthodox setting needs no specific Indian geographical setting. Ignorance and prejudice are widespread, more than ever.

Inclined to mix impressive witty comedy, urbanite-engaging drama with an emotional overdose in notable films like Cheeni Kum (2007) and Paa (2009), Balki finds the right story to balance what he does best. The result is an overwhelmingly entertaining social drama that ticks all the right boxes.

One of a Kind
Pad Man towers over last year's similarly themed Toilet: Ek Prem Katha because it doesn't preach and force the message down our throats. It is less of a social loudspeaker and more of a deep, funny,  witty, connecting movie on the larger implications of using something so often ignored - sanitary pads.

Akshay Kumar 3.0!  
How Akshay Kumar has evolved to be one of the finest actors of our time is as much of an inspiration. His take on the mad, passionate Lakshmikant is sincere, grounded, balanced and earnest.

Watch how Kumar nails the modesty, the vacuum of fighting a lonely battle, that single tear flowing down his face, bang on clueless expression to Amitabh Bachchan's English speech and the rocking 10-minute United Nations monologue. It is one, big, skyrocketing performance. I have come to respect Kumar's rise as an actor, in Pad Man he installs himself as a serious acting heavyweight.    

Contrasting Female Vibes 
Balki bridges the rural-urban divide in Radhika Apte's impressive rendering of a vulnerable, teary-eyed, superstitious wife. He offers a tabla player exponent and high-flying MBA graduate in Sonam Kapoor's sporting take on Pari. The contrasts work but the Pari-Lakshmikant love premise could have been handled better.

A Few Misses
The love triangle adds unnecessary lather to the proceedings. Yet Akshay Kumar's sublime touch makes even the love story digestible. A minor quibble is the out of place, synchronized dance sequence celebrating a young girl's puberty. Thankfully, it is a teeny-weeny hiccup.

Don't Miss It 
Powered by Akshay Kumar's career-best performance to date, and a strikingly different story to tell, Pad Man connects in the most intimate, humorous and empathy-driven manner, like few commercial films do.

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