The fictionalised drama has the consent of the protagonist. No protests. No challenge on dance and song!! Thankfully Muruganathan’s legendary fans have not opposed the film maker display the menstrual cycle and even more grateful is the Friday trysted film audience to the stone pelting culture police who permit the display of an age-old custom. Thankfully Balki has not (yet) been dubbed as: so called liberal.
The story line needs no mention. Lakshmikant (Akshay Kumar) wakes up to the use of dirty cloth instead of sanitary pads. Talking or even referring to it leave alone getting it out of the closet is taboo. When he decides to take a pro active role in changing things leads to matrimonial discord, social revolt and even sibling protest. Wife Gayatri (Radhika Apte) is unable to deal with it. She is shocked at its price and is not able to come to terms with her spouse’s obsession with the pads.
His futile attempts to sell the idea or an unfinished alternative product go awry and the entire village is up in arms. Insulted and isolated he leaves the village only to become a successful entrepreneur who not only gets Presidential recognition for his innovative technology in producing a low-cost machine but also gets invited to the United Nations. Interestingly Balki ducks the trend of making a biopic of a sports person and deals with a person who has made a name for an invention with social relevance. Here he is assisted by a MBA graduate Pari (Sonam).
What works for the film is that it completely eschews the pulpit and deals with it at a human angle. Given the poker faced, one liner charm of its protagonist, the film heavily relies on the shoulder of Akshay Kumar. The guy is in the kind of form that you associate with Virat Kohli. Top grade. Non-pretentious and in complete sync with the pulse of the audience. You wonder why this actor is consistently overlooked by the critics. Perhaps because he does not style himself as an intellectual. Take for instance his soliloquy in the form of his lecture at the UN (and read how different and earthly it is in compare to Aamir in Akele Hum Akele Tum) and you get to seeing a peoples’ actor who does not over state and is not afraid to stoop to conquer.
The skill lies in knowing how much to stoop. The script some times bothers on being near documentary but quickly recovers to deal with the passion and energy of Akshay. Adding glamour and poise to the film is Sonam who keeps her Neeraja repute intact. Amazing dialogues keep things afloat. Gems like: the pleasure of being a father lies in identifying motherhood; identifying US as the country where the lady holds the flame and reference to a runner up award a Vice Presidential award swing from the heart touching to the rib tickling.
Balki delivers and reiterates that he has a high sensitivity level in his approach to dealing with narratives. Ultimately this Pad Man is a Akshay show- straight from the heart, unpretentious and yet meaningful. Lively yet soul searching. Reformative yet not preachy.