PadMan movie review: Akshay Kumar and Sonam Kapoor's social drama is endearing in parts. Heart touching but the script could have been better!
The much-awaited PadMan is finally here. Starring Akshay Kumar in the lead, the movie is directed by R Balki. Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor play the female leads. The movie is inspired by the life of Tamil Nadu-based social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham, who made low-cost sanitary pads for the women in his village. PadMan is also the maiden production venture of Twinkle Khanna.
Release Date: 9th Feb 2018
Director: R Balki
Music Director: Amit Trivedi
Production: Twinkle Khanna
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Radhika Apte, Amitabh Bachchan
Set in the early 2000s in a village in Madhya Pradesh, the movie starts off with the marriage of Laxmikant Chauhan (Akshay Kumar) and Gayathri (Radhika Apte). Laxmikant is a simple, good-hearted but brilliant blacksmith who doesn’t want to see his wife in any kind of unease and uses his brains to create alternative methods to make her life easy. Like, making an automatic chopping machine using a doll, so that she doesn’t need to cut onions. He gets the biggest challenge of his life when she goes through her monthly periods. In those five days, she stays away from him, sleeps away in a small separate room (where his sisters also sleep when they go through theirs) and eats separately.
But what bothers him the most is that she uses a dirty cloth as a napkin. When she refuses to use the ‘costly’ pad he buys for her, Laxmikant decides to make low-cost pads for his family. However, his efforts to make pads turn out to be appalling failures and he also gets humiliated in the whole process by the entire village, including his own family. In a heated moment, his wife returns to her home and he leaves the village to make sure that he achieves his goals. How he goes on to achieve them and how a management aspirant Pari (Sonam Kapoor) helps him in the process is what the rest of the movie is all about.
The performances of all the lead actors are fine, if not award-winning. The role demands Akshay Kumar to revel in his comfort zone and there are a couple of sequences that would truly endear him to his fans. Like the scene when he gets the first good ‘pheedback’ for his pad; he is fab in that scene. However, he fails to make much of an impact in the climax speech, but that may something to do with the writing more than the performance. Radhika Apte excels in a sketchily-written role of a wife who is scared of what her husband is up to, and yet is quite protective of him. Sonam Kapoor, who arrives in the second half, delivers a charming performance.
One big advantage for PadMan is that its main theme is a good conversation starter in Indian cinema. Rarely are movies made here that revolve around the subject of ‘chums’ and discuss the taboos surrounding them. Last year, we had a movie called Phullu, starring the talented Sharib Hashmi, which also revolved around the same topic and nearly the same story. While Phullu dealt with the plot in a depressing manner, PadMan takes a more light-hearted tone (but not as humorous as the trailers suggest) that will connect more with the mainstream audiences. So we appreciate the makers for taking on such a subject and trying to dispel the stupid notions surrounding it.
PadMan is also one of the rare Bollywood movies where the second half is better than the first. What works well for the movie are some really strong moments that are spread around the movie. In the first half, the scenes where Laxmikant questions his wife’s dogmatic beliefs on her periods stand out so does that sequence where his ‘experiment’ fails horribly. The second half definitely has more engaging sequences, most of which we don’t want to spoil here. Also, how Laxmikant uses his brains to work out alternative and cheaper methods will put a smile on your face.
R Balki, though not in his best form here, thankfully doesn’t let the hero go too bombastic with his speeches, saving the long one only for the climax. PC Sreeram’s cinematography gives the movie a soft, golden tinge. The film is also mercifully short with a runtime going a little beyond two and a half hours.
It is quite challenging for me as a critic to analyse the flaws of PadMan. Not that the movie is devoid of flaws; there is plenty to count here. This is a movie that has a heart in its right place, but we do wish that there is a stronger narrative to back it up. When you look at its screenplay, PadMan feels like a few good moments tied up by very weak and disjointed strands. Sometimes the movie gives off a documentary vibe, sometimes a well-shot TV drama. The village portions are too loud and melodramatic, with screechy secondary characters, none of whom make any kind of impact. They are more two-dimensional than a blank piece of paper.
Laxmikant’s wife, a really important character in the first half at least, faces a reduction to a whiny, weak character. Who is later relegated to the background when Sonam’s character arrives. It was Laxmi’s love for his wife that gives him the drive to make the pads. But even this romantic thread is nearly forgotten to establish the camaraderie between Laxmi and Pari. Sometimes, we also can’t avoid the feeling that things go too breezy for the protagonist, as the writers seem to be in a rush to tie things up.
But what turns out to be the movie’s Achilles heel is the climactic portions that are definitely the product of some uninspirational writing. Akshay’s speech at the UN works only in bits, while there is an unnecessary romance forced in the proceedings. The dialogues only sparkle on a few occasions, mostly they are just ho-hum. The songs, though good, don’t register much of an impact in the movie.
Also on a separate note, we wonder why an organisation like IIT chooses to have a Bollywood star (Amitabh Bachchan in a cameo) as their chief guest for an event that is about recognising engineering marvels. But then, didn’t we recently have a Bollywood star chosen as a chief speaker at a literature fest?
PadMan has its heart in its right place, and that, along with its subject, is its biggest USP in winning over the viewers. However, the movie needs to have more than just a ‘heart’ and a strong subject; and this is where PadMan, overall, falters. But we would still recommend the movie for its frank discussion! A Take on what is surely a taboo subject in many parts of our country. The depiction is in a very conventional (too conventional, we must say) manner.
Comparedada Rating: 3.5/5