The moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here. For months the team of this year’s much awaited bio-pic Pad Man has been raising awareness of the lack of affordable hygienic products for women. Just hours before the release of the film, lead actor Akshay Kumar gets candid about his thoughts on the unnecessary taboo surrounding menstruation.
You’ve lived many days in the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham. How has essaying this character affected you, if at all?
Pad Man is based on true events from the life of a South Indian husband, Arunachalam Muruganantham, who did everything in his power and beyond to provide his wife with a low-cost sanitary pad to improve her quality of life, through making it more comfortable and lower the risk of disease, even though his quest very nearly cost him his marriage for good. I was drawn to the powerful topic and the issues and taboos relating to menstrual hygiene. To discover that only 12% of women in India have access to sanitary pads and that over 20% of girls are dropping out of education because of their periods was truly shocking and sensitized me to the issue. To think that the women in our lives have all lived in shame for centuries simply because of a natural part of the biological process is saddening.
Often times people blame lack of education and a rural mindset on gender biases, however women in major cities are also victims of a taboo lifestyle. What is your take on that?
I completely agree, menstruation is considered a taboo topic not just in rural areas but major cities as well. And the reason for the same is years of conditioning that we have gone through as a society, that it’s a topic not to be discussed but wrapped in black polythene and passed on under the counter. With Pad Man, that’s exactly the kind of change we are hoping to bring, getting the conversation started and I’m happy to see my social media filled with mentions of people discussing menstrual hygiene,it’s a start!
Not only India, the major parts of the world face the challenge of free of cost condoms but pay heavy prices for sanitary napkins. Do you think clinics and schools should offer free sanitary napkins for females who cannot afford them?
Absolutely, help should be provided to whoever needs it. I feel specially people in rural areas should be given sanitary pads free of cost. In fact, there’s something called a pad bank which I have started in Maharashtra with the help of the hon. Chief Minister of Maharashtra wherein people can donate pads or money which would be used to buy pads for people who cannot afford it. This way if every state were to take an initiative we could soon become a country wherein 100% women have access to sanitary pads.
In your eyes what is the true success of Pad Man?
It’s not always about box office collections. Some journey’s you undertake for personal reasons. Pad Man is one such film for me. It’s close to my heart for many reasons besides it being my wife’s first production under MrsFunnybones Movies. But honestly for me, Pad Man was already a success the day I overheard youngsters outside my vanity van discussing issues on menstruation. That for me is real success, getting the men talking about this issue.
Check out Pad Man in a theater near you on February 9, 2018.