Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Pad Man, or: Bloody Men

As a Blog Collab that relies heavily on 90-minute B films, Bollywood Month has been a struggle. But guess what: we made it despite most of our picks this month clocking in at 2+ hours. For our final pick this month, we have the added bonus of a feminist theme that discusses menstruation repeatedly without making it a joke(!).

The Film:

Pad Man

The Premise:

Based on a true story, a man concerned for his wife in a rural village makes it his mission to produce cheaply made sanitary pads for women.

The Ramble:

Lakshmi and Gayatri enter into an arranged marriage, which quickly develops into romantic love. The unconventional Lakshmi may never be wealthy, but he is a devoted husband determined to care for his wife. For better or worse, he seems to take this duty a bit too far for Gayatri’s tastes and decides to do something about her reproductive health.

A woman perches at the front of a bicycle, pedaled by a man behind her.

In the village the couple calls home (and in many rural parts of India), women who are menstruating are consigned to a screened-in part of the house so they will avoid making the rest of the residence impure. Women may lose two months of their lives every year, not to mention putting their lives at risk by using the same rag repeatedly to absorb menstrual blood.

Simple solution? Pads. Major complication? A single pack of pads is a luxury item, costing as much as 55 rupees. Lakshmi presents Gayatri with possibly the most romantic gift possible, a pack of sanitary pads; however, Gayatri is deeply ashamed that he has spent so much money, not to mention that he seems utterly fixated on her menstrual cycle. But Lakshmi’s gift does come in handy when someone is injured at work–instead of soiled rag, clean cotton fibers to the rescue!

A woman in a sari opens a gift, smiling.

Rejuvenated from the idea he’s on the right track re: pads, Lakshmi decides the best way to get his wife to use them is to make a low-cost alternative. Scraping together a small amount of cotton and muslin, he folds a pad of his own creation. Though Gayatri uses the pads, they are not absorbent enough, and a night of scrubbing blood from her sari puts her off for good.

After failing to recruit patients, medical students, and his own niece, Lakshmi is out of ideas for customers. Finally, Lakshmi decides to test the product himself with the help of the local butcher. Confident to a fault, he conducts the test while wearing light-colored pants with disastrous results. Jumping into the river to clean off the blood, he has made the water impure and is considered a pervert by many in the community.

A man sits by a river, examining a piece of cotton shaped into a sanitary pad.

Before Lakshmi can bring any more shame to the family, Gayatri’s brothers take her away to live with them. With nothing left to lose, Lakshmi pursues his dream full-time, working for a college professor and hoping to receive answers in exchange. Though the professor is pretty useless and discouraging AF, Lakshmi does learn about a supposedly low-cost machine that makes pads for women in low-income areas. The device costs millions of dollars, but Lakshmi is undeterred: he will simply build his own.

Feeling confident with his invention after much trial and error, Lakshmi still encounters the same problem that has plagued him constantly: women are much too ashamed about their periods to talk to a strange man about sanitary pads.

Luckily, a performer in town for a music festival is in need of a pad long after all of the drug stores have closed for the night. Lakshmi, sensing an opportunity, gives her one of his homemade pads to try. When he tracks her down for feedback, musician Pari is confused yet replies honestly: the pad was fine.

As it turns out, Pari is working on an MBA and is a perfect ally for Lakshmi. She encourages him to enter an innovation competition, where he wins the president’s award. Once he receives recognition, it doesn’t take long for Lakshmi’s invention to take off as he hires women to make and sell pads.

A man demonstrates a newly made sanitary pad to a group of well-dressed people in suits.

Developing feelings for Lakshmi and hoping for his success, Pari encourages him to patent his invention so he can make money from his idea. Lakshmi is so not on board for this as the machine’s purpose is to make a difference in the lives of women, who need only pay 2 rupees per pad. Besides this, he has yet to make an impact on the life of his own wife; can Lakshmi live with himself knowing he’s helped many women, but not the one he set out to help?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I truly enjoyed this film, and I’m not even mad about the underwhelming song and dance numbers. The lyrics to the song “Pad Man” are everything–and I sincerely hope the real-life Pad Man feels the song is the icing on the cake in consideration of all of his accomplishments. This film is an unapologetically feel-good piece telling the story of a real-life hero, and I’m so on board for that.

My biggest complaint is the love triangle, which is just completely unnecessary. I really enjoyed the relationship between Lakshmi and Pari but did it HAVE to be romantic? It all felt gross to me considering Lakshmi is married the whole time and still seems devoted to his wife.

Also it takes Lakshmi a RIDICULOUSLY long time to realize he should have women talking to other women about periods instead of him. Bloody men, eh?

Would my darling blog wife give this one the president’s award of her heart or toss it out like a soiled sanitary pad? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Foxy Merkins, or: Are You a Women’s Studies Major?

Another week, another big gay film review!

My pick for this week is The Foxy Merkins as it’s Madeline Olnek’s latest (director of Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, still one of my favorite films I’ve reviewed, and hands down winner of best title on this blog. Probably also best film title, period).

See what Christa thinks of The Foxy Merkins here!

The Film:

The Foxy Merkins

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Lesbian hooker Jo becomes a mentor to Margaret, who is practically the Kenneth of lesbian prostitutes. Way more 30 Rock references in that summary than I intended.

The Uncondensed Version:

The events of our film unfold in New York City as we follow Margaret, a down on her luck former women’s studies major. Since she can’t find any other work, Margaret has become a lesbian prostitute; however, she’s quite terrible at getting women to pick her up.

It doesn’t take long before Jo, a seasoned pro, takes Margaret under her wing. This is both a blessing and a curse as Margaret could use some help, but Jo is not the expert she believes herself to be. Jo comes from a wealthy family and lives in the bathroom of the Port Authority as an act of rebellion. She gives Margaret advice about going up to women and touching them (which, shockingly, doesn’t go over well) and tells her she is the kind of lesbian other women don’t want to be seen with. Jo is a bit of a frenemy, honestly.

A woman wearing a shirt with no pants faces another woman in a public restroom
New meaning to the shirt dress.

Case in point: Margaret gets tickets to see the digitally remastered Lassie in theaters (seriously), and Jo gives her pointers on picking up a woman who’s giving her the eye. The end result is the woman crawling on the floor and eating Margaret’s popcorn. Literally. Not a euphemism, you guys.

Meanwhile, there is a bit of an ongoing subplot involving finding Margaret’s mom. When Margaret and Jo look for her in a graveyard, they encounter a man in a trench coat selling merkins (editor’s note: a merkin is a wig for, uh, down there. Maybe you already knew that, but I didn’t. Or if I did I repressed it LIKE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO). So anyway…it’s all coming together, and our title makes sense now.

Two women talk to a man in a cemetery who is opening his trench coat to reveal merchandise for sale
THIS SCENE, GUYS. PLEASE AT LEAST WATCH THIS SCENE.

Margaret and Jo go back to their usual spot to find clients, standing outside of Talbots. In terms of getting picked up, Margaret is still not having a ton of luck—one woman was interested until she realized the 70% off sign was for Talbots, not her. This seems to turn around a bit when a wealthy woman approaches Margaret, asking her to meet her at a particular hotel within the hour. As it turns out, this woman’s fetish is being busted by the police, so she hires men to come to the room and arrest Margaret. Poor Margaret doesn’t realize all of this is a setup until Jo tells her. Understandably, she feels a bit betrayed.

Two women lie under white sheets on the bed they share
Every screencap makes me realize I’ve failed to mention more witty dialogue. To be fair, this film is 85% witty dialogue.

Later, Margaret recognizes the woman as a Republican Congresswoman. Jo reveals she “accidentally secretly” recorded Margaret with the Congresswoman and wants to sell the tape to CNN. This is a major dick move, as Margaret expresses her discomfort with the idea of becoming rich and (in)famous because of a sex tape.

Though the plot is not really the point of the film, I’m going to leave you in suspense about what happens with the sex tape and Margaret’s growing feelings for Jo. There is some excellent dialogue where both plot points are concerned.

The Critique:

Much like Codependent Lesbian Space Alien, this film is driven by message and character over plot. Both films use sort of a documentary style, and a lot of the comedy is based on the awkwardness of the characters and dialogue.

There are a lot of nice comedic touches, like Margaret and Jo always have to compliment the cleanliness and general appeal of their client’s homes. And I HAVE to mention that when Margaret rejects payment in the form of a Talbots gift card, the client tells her, “Every other time I’ve been to a lesbian hooker, they’ve accepted a gift card to Talbots.”

I think Codependent was a bit more successful as it was more bizarre and had more likeable characters. In Codependent, even Zylar, who was a total player and broke one of the other alien’s hearts, was still likeable and funny. However, in Foxy Merkins, Margaret was basically the only decent human being. Jo was funny but also sort of terrible in contrast to how sweet and genuine Margaret was.

Still another solid film from Madeleine Olnek. I did some searching, and apparently girl just got a Guggenheim Fellowship…I hope that means she’s making a shitload of films.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherHalf Pink Panther head 3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I think Codependent Lesbian Space Alien is a bit more quirky and fun to watch, but this is still worth seeing. Make it your mission to watch Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same.

Find Christa’s review here!

In other news, someone searching for “moon nazis are coming” found my blog (Iron Sky was the first film I reviewed for this blog). DREAMS DO COME TRUE.