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(!).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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?