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R Balki: 'Padman' is about fanning the conversation around a woman’s basic right

The timing couldn't have been better for R Balki's 'Padman', starring Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte. The film went on floors around the same time last year, when the issue of menstrual hygiene grabbed headlines for various reasons. Discussions around taxation on sanitary napkins and treating them as luxury products, and initiatives like installing pad-vending machines at schools and other institutions have gathered momentum over the past year.

Point this out and Balki says, "In recent times, people have uttered the word 'pad' more often than they ever did. It is simple human psychology that people find it more comfortable to participate in a conversation than flagging it off. Today, many women are willing to share their experiences about menstruation and their need for hygiene more openly, without feeling conscious about men listening in. While this is the beginning, I feel that the real effect of my film will be visible after it releases because 'Padman' is not about box office; it's about fanning or magnifying the conversation around a woman's basic right to menstrual hygiene." The filmmaker believes that previously, the subject was discussed only behind the closed doors of a house, between the women of the family. Today, it seems to have assumed a larger proportion. College students and working women don't shy away from demanding better hygiene conditions and creating awareness about the necessity of sanitary pads. "The discussion around menstrual hygiene was always there but now, it's gaining more ground. Taxes on sanitary napkins are being discussed these days, but I think that we need to draw our attention towards making affordable pads that guarantee hygiene to women across the country," says Balki. The filmmaker, who has previously directed thousands of ad films, believes that advertisements need to change the tone in which they communicate with their end consumers. He believes that currently, the focus is on making pads the symbol of a liberated woman. However, he stresses, campaigns should ideally create awareness about the need to switch from cloth to cotton pad.

"There are women who can afford pads and there are those who can't, but what worries me is that a lot of women don't feel the need to switch from cloth to pads. So, apart from manufacturing and distributing affordable pads, the focus should be on educating both classes of women on why using a rag cloth is not hygienic. We have to make them understand that if they use cloth, and it's not washed properly, it can cause infections in a sensitive region of their body, which can lead to bigger health disasters. If my film can fan this discussion enough, more than half the battle is won," Balki sums up. 'Padman', produced by Mrs Funnybones Movies, SPE Films India, Kriarj Entertainment, Cape of Good Films and Hope Productions, and released worldwide by SPE Films India, releases on February 9.


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