Verdict - Akshay Kumar delivers another winner with his best performance to date!
India has a population of over a billion people and almost 48 % of these are women. As per different studies conducted by various organizations and think tanks, a majority of women here still don't have access to proper means of menstrual hygiene and have to use unsafe methods which damage their health. Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist from Tamil Nadu brought a revolution on his own by providing affordable sanitary napkins to millions of rural women.
The film PadMan is inspired by his life and is also based on the book the legend of Lakshmi Prasad by Twinkle Khanna (also the producer of the film). Akshay Kumar stars as Lakshmikant Chauhan, a simple man living in a village in Madhya Pradesh along with his mother, sisters and his wife, Gayatri (Radhika Apte). He has a knack for solving the problems his wife faces on a day to day basis and loves to make her happy. When he sees how his wife (also his sisters and other women of his village) is shut out from home when she is on her period and won't use a sanitary pad as it's too costly, he decides to take matter into his own hands and starts developing a pad that's not too costly.
He fails spectacularly numerous times and is even ostracized from his village but keeps working on to develop the pad that would give his wife the dignity she deserves, even though she leaves him. Enter Sonam Kapoor's Rhea, an MBA graduate who decides to help Lakshmi to fulfil his dream and also helps him market the product the right way. The film gives special attention on empowering women in the rural areas through entrepreneurship, education and skill development. It also shows how selfless Lakshmi is as he passes on the chance to have his product patented which would have brought him millions of rupees.
The film never feels stretched during its entire runtime and credit goes to Akshay Kumar to keep the audiences engaged with probably his best performance to date. His Lakshmikant is a man of perseverance who has the determination of a mad-genius. It is his fight with these age-old customs and traditions that still don't allow women in rural India the access to basic hygiene. The film also cements the fact that there is no leading man better than Akshay Kumar in comedy.
PadMan is a personal story in its first half where a man decides to do everything in his power to help his wife and both Akshay Kumar & Radhika Apte portray their characters effectively. In its second half, the film shifts its focus to the social revolution that Lakshmi starts after meeting Rhea and begins empowering women in the rural areas. The film implies that there are a lot of geniuses in rural India, who, with proper mentoring and help, can transform the nation.
Sonam Kapoor gives a refreshing performance as Rhea and her arc is important to the story as she helps Lakshmi to become PadMan. She stands resolutely behind him and single-handedly markets his product. The film also showcases how a nation can progress if youngsters start working for the people instead of taking high-end jobs.
PadMan is funny and amusing throughout while it also educates the masses about the importance of menstrual hygiene and women empowerment. The film refers to the elephant in the room without discomforting the viewers as people are still afraid to talk about these topics in the open. R Balki has made a film that not only entertains but also educates the people. It is neither too preachy like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha nor overtly dramatic like PK. The only glitch is the unneeded romantic plot which could have been avoided (won't spoil it for you). The film is a perfect ode to empowering women which will, in turn, empower India.