I’ve always wondered why period is considered taboo. I remember overhearing a conversation between a girl and a guy at tuition many years ago “Oi! Guys shouldn’t look in girls’ handbag!” I turned to my female friend sitting beside me and asked, “What’s up with that?” She whispered, “There’s female stuff in it?” I asked, “You mean a vibrator?” It was both a joke and a legitimate question. I mean why else would you not want people to see your secret female stuff? She said (still whispering), “No wtf?! Sanitary pads.” I was confused. So I asked, “But why be so secretive about that? Isn’t it normal?” And she said, “Omg. Stop asking questions. It’s embarrassing.”

Another story: It was a family vacation and one of my cousins (I think 15 at the time) opted not to enter the swimming pool. So one of my aunts asked her why so? She just looked down and shook her head. So my aunt asked again. And again, she just looked down and shook her head. Being the cantkeepmymouthshut guy that I am, I said, “It’s probably that time of the month.” My cousin nodded.

Seriously? Why is it wrong to nonchalantly say, “I’m on my period?” Why does society make girls feel like it’s something they should be embarrassed about? Heck, even the word “puberty” seems like a taboo word. Or is it just an Indian thing? “Attain age” is the phrase I hear from my mom and all the other uncles and aunties — “Anushka’s daughter attained age.” Jesus! You know what pops up if you Google “attain age?” Some shit about investment companies.

I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now. Pad Man doesn’t get it too.

When mechanic Lakshmi (Akshay Kumar), sees his wife using a dirty rag during her period, he strives to help not just her, but all the women around her. Despite being uneducated, he seems to be the only rationale and progressive person in the neighbourhood. Everyone else are like the people I described in the first two paragraphs of this article, except dialed to eleven. During their periods, the women sleep outside the house because they’re deemed “impure.” When Lakshmi tries to touch his wife, Gayatri (Radhika Apte), she scolds him! “You’re not supposed to touch me during this time of the month.”

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When he buys a packet of pads for his wife at a local pharmacy, his wife scolds him for wasting 55 rupees on something unnecessary. Yet, when they go to the temple, she forces Lakshmi to spend 50 rupees for a “blessing.” Lakshmi is annoyed and so am I. I don’t get it. Why the need to spend money on so-called special prayers? What’s the difference between paying X amount of money on a pooja and praying in your house?

Are you implying that God is a capitalist who only provides his services if you pay for it? I don’t have a problem with the concept of God; I do have a problem with people blinded by the farce that is organized religion. But that’s a discussion for another day. Paying for prayer is one thing, choosing not to pay for basic hygiene and health because it’s too “expensive” yet dumping money at temples, is another.

So begins Lakshmi’s journey towards becoming Pad Man. If his wife won’t allow him to spend 55 rupees on pads, then he will make it for her. And he will make it for all the women in his house. The first half of Pad Man is engaging. We dig deep and explore the mentality of a hyper-conservative society.

Some of the scenes are painful to watch. It made me want to scream at the screen: “Open your eyes and minds people!” Lakshmi is confused. He’s unable to process why people think that way; Why people call him a pervert for wanting to make pads; Why people call pads “filth”. He’s confused, I’m fuming. Tears are rolling down my cheeks!

Akshay Kumar, who more often than not acts in comedies, delivers a good dramatic performance here. But he doesn’t leave his comedic sensibilities at the doorstep. Pad Man has some good comedic moments throughout. Radhika Apte performs well too, embodying a character who is drowning in shame because of her husband’s deed, yet deep down appreciates why he’s doing what he’s doing.

The second half of the movie is nowhere near as good as the first. It loses its spark and becomes your paint by numbers success story, which of course includes a montage of him building his Pad machine. The writing by R. Balki and Swanand Kirkire becomes lazy. The depth of the characters are gone, replaced by speeches and expository dialogue such as one by Amitabh Bachchan who tells us that India isn’t a country with a thousand bodies, it’s a country with a thousand minds. It’s as if director R. Balki, who previously directed the extremely entertaining Shamitabh, loses the trust he had in the audience throughout the first half and decides its best if he makes a straight up PSA, just to make sure the message hits home.

And as the second half progresses, R. Balki also seems to lose his confidence. He includes an unnecessary, out of place romance angle between Lakshmi and Pari (Sonam Kapoor), who’s essentially the first person to actually believe in his abilities and supports his intention. The romance angle amounts to nothing and is simply shoehorned in for the sake of adding some Indian movie masala. The first half challenges you in organic ways, the second half desperately tries to cater to the widest possible audience. Don’t get me wrong, the second half isn’t atrocious. It is still fairly enjoyable because of the all the actors, including Sonam Kapoor, are a delight to watch. It’s just that it loses the magic of the first half.

Despite its weaker second half, Pad Man is still a film you should catch because of its interesting subject matter. Which brings me to another story. During my college days, I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of girls who didn’t find the word PERIOD taboo. They would say things like, “Eh! Don’t disturb me today. I’m emotional my period,” or “OMG. My period cramps hurt like a bitch!” Heck, they’ve even openly and loudly asked if anyone has extra pads. Menstruation is something all girls go through once they’ve attained age hit PUBERTY There’s nothing embarrassing about it. It’s not something girls should be ashamed of. It should not be taboo. Enough with that shit!

Now, there’s also a discussion to be had about condoms… okay fine, I’ll stop.

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