Director: R. Balki
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte, Sonam Kapoor
Pad Man is a missed opportunity from R. Balki. He had such a great topic at hand but the end result is just average. There was so much potential in the story, but Balki’s presentation, screenplay and overall light-hearted tone to the film fails to make a powerful impact. You have to give complete justice to the great person on whom you are making a movie otherwise the intention of making a film dissolves. Pad Man gives a feel good experience just for some moments. As a whole, the movie is underachieving.
Pad Man is a story of a social entrepreneur Arunchalam Muruganantham who invented low cost sanitary pad making machine for rural women so that they can afford them and be safe during their menstruation. If you have watched Balki’s previous films like Cheeni Kum, Paa or even Shamitabh, you’ll realize Pad Man is not his best work, in fact, it didn’t really feel like his directional style. He likes to choose topics which are not discussed in our country much or considered taboo so him directing Pad Man was obvious but I just couldn’t connect with it. The entire fast half is so fast paced that not a single scene is been dealt properly with enough investment in time. You have to give each scene some time so that audience can live in it, relate to the character and experience the story’s essence. It was just repetitive with women shouting ‘Sharam’ in every sentence. After a while, it gets irritating. The dialogues, the screenwriting were weak when Akshay Kumar as Laxmi tries to have conversation with his wife Gayatri (Radhika Apte) about pads and menstruation.
The strange choice of keeping Pad Man light-hearted obstructs the film to go deep into Pad Man’s life. Balki shows Laxmi’s efforts to keep his wife safe, his care to make Pads for her and other women, the negative reactions from his community. He also narrates Laxmi’s sustained objective to make the pad making machine. But, it is directed superficially. I would have loved to see much more intensity in how he changes the scenario around him, the rural community getting involved and all those stuff, but they were shown rapidly in just one song. The film just goes on like this, without much substance.
The 2nd half of Pad Man is however pleasant and much better. The moment Akshay as Laxmi goes on his own to make pad making machine, the film really lifts the story. It is enjoyable, funny as well as inspiring. These 20-30 minutes are the only reasons you need to watch Pad Man. The best scene of the movie is when Akshay gives that speech at United Nations about ‘Mad only becoming famous’, it’s beautiful. The fragmented usage of English to tell Pad Man’s story in front of American people and Laxmi’s comic timing makes you applaud for him. It’s truly whistle-worthy.
Akshay Kumar has done a real good job in Pad Man. Lately, he is doing lots of socially relevant and patriotic films. He carries the movie on his shoulder as there is no support from other cinematic departments. His performance in this film was better than Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Jolly LLB and Rustom. His pain to see his wife suffer, his determination to invent and give solution to women, his behavior when he faces rejection for most of the part were aptly delivered by him. Akshay’s performance when he gives speech at UN is one of the best things you will see in Bollywood in recent times. It was so natural when he talks like that, makes everyone laugh as well as cry about the problems he faced. Wow, hats off to him for that.
Radhika Apte is a fine actress and she does all she can in Pad Man as Laxmi’s wife. She is lovely and caring. She portrays the role of a typical rural wife perfectly. Sonam Kapoor doesn’t show many expressions in her acting so it’s hard to like her character and her performance. It’s mostly linear and her dialogue delivery is average.
On a concluding note, I would say, Pad Man is a brave decision from Balki to make a film on but that decision doesn’t fully transform into an engaging cinematic experience.