PadMan – great subject, average cinema

In the era of Netflix and binge-watching, we have many a web series and short films on all possible ‘taboo’ subjects (including periods) that commercial cinema still shies away from. Hence the spirit and intent of Padman are worthy of applaud. Of course, you need a powerful star to bring this subject forth and a ton of marketing gimmicks to justify the empowerment and liberation part of the message. But sadly that alone cannot guarantee a good cinematic experience.

This is the story of a noble genius who was truly progressive much before feminism became fashionable. The pretext of the story is an opening song in which our hero Laxmi (Akshay Kumar) finds every opportunity to innovate and put his workmanship to task for his wife’s comfort. Building up through small gestures of care, we see how Laxmi one sudden day realises that his wife uses a dirty rag in her ‘test match’ days. Hereon starts the revolutionary journey of this silly pants warm-hearted genius. Akshay Kumar is powerful as Laxmi, you feel his surprise and frustration in bits, but mostly you see him carrying a social agenda on his strong Bollywood shoulders.  His conversations are at times unreal and way too explanatory.  The director takes no risks of subtlety and says everything out loud, thoughts, reactions, ideas, emotions, translations…everything!

It is ironical that a film that revolves around women has such half-baked character sketches of the two leading women. Radhika Apte as Gayatri is panicky at most times, letting only Laxmi empathize with her, never us. Sonam Kapoor as Pari is a Tabla player who is seen doing so in one pretentious intro scene. One is a subject of inspiration for Laxmi’s experiments and other is a mere facilitator.  While both Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor do justice to their limited screen time, there is hardly any mettle to their roles.

The most displeasing part lies in the second half when an awkward romance is bestowed upon us that leave both us and the hero uncomfortable. This unnecessary subplot is suggestive of the maker’s distrust in the natural course of the story.

Maybe it is intentional to not deviate from the protagonist’s narrative, but the social awakening part is burdened entirely by the sanitary napkin awareness bit and does not attempt to educate about the subject as such. If only the film could have relied more on the simple and unaltered story of the real Superhero, it would have been closer to the heart.

Nevertheless, thanks to another addition to Akshay Kumar’s conscious cinema choices, period talk is now trending on Instagram and on lunch tables (of Instagrammers I guess). Giving it 2.5 cuttings to say that it should be on TV soon, wait for it.


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