Director: R. Balki
Starcast: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte
Rating: 2.5 stars
At a time when Bollywood is obsessed with biopics about cricketers and gangsters and actors, it’s interesting how a South Indian man, who invested his everything to make one machine, makes the cut to the big screen.
Arunachalam Murguanathan is ‘Padman’, the one who revolutionised how we look at “women’s monthly problems”. He took on women’s issues, at a time when women themselves were uncomfortable to address it.
He didn’t stop there. He went on to design a machine that not only helped women get affordable pads, but also gave some a livelihood.
His is a story that deserves celebration and celluloid glory, no doubt. One that Bollywood’s Mrs Funnybones (Twinkle Khanna) will take credit for, considering she researched him for her book, and possibly why she decided to cast her star husband to play the unusual “superhero”.
So, while R Balki’s ‘Padman’ wins points for telling a story that’s worthy of applause, his efforts appear muddled and unworthy of our full attention. Blame it on a dull first-half, and poor casting. Unlike movies like Vicky Donor and Shubh Mangal Savdhan, which dealt with unconventional topics, this one lacks any genuine humour and Ayushman Khuranna!
What we are left with is Akshay Kumar, who has turned into some sort of on-screen revolutionary after Toilet Ek Prem Katha. In here, he’s championing yet another movement. This time, for women. However, his efforts, like the one last year, appears rather forced. Especially in the first half, when he gleefully flaunts his new obsession, without any real emotion. It’s only towards the end, when he launches into a monologue despite his limited English, that you sense his genuine brilliance.
Radhika Apte fortunately makes up for his failings and anchors the story with her wonderful performance. From her body language to her diction, she’s captured the mannerisms of Lakshmi’s wife spot-on. A scene where she is forced to witness her man’s ‘stained adventure’ is exceptionally striking. She illuminates every frame and we wish the rest of the cast picked her cue.
Sonam Kapoor too makes an appearance, but one that’s lacklustre. She’s got her look pat on but when it comes to performance she lacks maturity or insight. While Balki and Kumar win points for telling a story that might make some people squirm and uncomfortable, it unfortunately doesn’t make for good cinema.