Celebrated Bollywood biopic opens this weekend and it’s 100% “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes!
Ever know a man who just flat-out refused to buy pads or tampons? If his wife or daughters needed sanitary products, he would just throw his hands up and say, “Nope, not gonna go there!”
I think we’ve all come across someone like this in our lives. He might be your dad, brother, or even your husband. But what about a man so obsessed with finding his wife a good pad, that he’d risk his entire reputation on it?
Meet Arunachalam Muruganatham, inventor, social entrepreneur, and aptly-titled Pad Man
A high school drop-out from South India, Muruganatham is the subject of a new Bollywood biopic, set to be released February 9 in the U.S.
The Pad Man’s nickname is as boldly unexpected as the work he set out to do. See, in the rural town of Coimbatore, where Muruganatham was born, the taboo surrounding menstruation is so oppressive, that it’s nearly impossible to even find sanitary products, let alone walk into a store and purchase them.
The movie, Pad Man, dramatizes the incredible story of his search for a cheap hygienic pad, his own personal testing of homemade pads, and the social ostracism he endured over his 20-year struggle – ostracism that almost cost him his marriage.
Played by hit Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, Muruganantham finally emerges as an unlikely hero. Over nine long years, this son of a textile weaver finally succeeded in constructing a machine that could produce pads quickly – and inexpensively – for the women of his village.
Using “a nasty rag cloth” during menstrual cycle
It all started in 1998, when a newlywed Muruganantham realized what his bride, Shanthi Natrajan, had been using to absorb her menstrual blood. “It was a nasty rag cloth,” he said. “I wouldn’t even use it to clean my vehicle.” Other rural women had been known to wrap sand or ash in a piece of cloth to try to soak up the monthly flow.
Sanitary products were available in some urban supermarkets, but the exorbitant mark-up made them inaccessible to many women. But Muruganantham decided his wife had used the rag for long enough. And so, for a whopping four rupees, he bought for her a smuggled sanitary pad – “Forty times what it cost to make,” he said.
That year, he made up his mind. He was going to create a cheaper pad.
“I was concerned about personal hygiene and how this would affect a woman’s health,” Muruganatham said. “I realized that the lack of proper sanitary napkins restricted a woman’s mobility and stifled her confidence.”
First, he tried what any of us might try – wrapped gauze around wads of cotton
His wife tested it out, but the diaphanous contraption couldn’t withstand the moisture for longer than a few minutes. But she wasn’t completely onboard with her husband’s mission. “At first, it was very embarrassing when he demanded my feedback,” she said. Natrajan, like many others in her community, had been raised to believe that women were made impure by their periods. Menstruating women aren’t allowed in Hindu temples, and many avoid handling milk during this time for fear that it might curdle.
The stigma surrounding menstruation made his efforts especially difficult
Women he approached to test the products were reluctant to help – even the medical students from the nearby university. The project was beginning to arouse suspicions among his neighbors. “Everyone was saying such nasty things,” said Natrajan. Rumors had broken out that Muruganatham was a serial womanizer, or a menstrual pad fetishist. Unable to cope with the shame, Natrajan made the agonizing decision to leave him. “It was a very difficult time,” she said. With his marriage in shambles, Muruganatham pressed on.
The only practical way to test his pads was to wear them himself
With the help of a rubber bladder and blood from freshly-slaughtered goats, Muruganatham was able to get the real-time feedback he needed to perfect his design. He outfitted himself with his pads and went about the day, constantly checking for leakage and clothing stains.
Women should not be hampered, embarrassed or held back by their biology
In 2006, Muruganatham unveiled his machine. It was portable, electric, and could manufacture a durable, low-cost, sanitary pad that could be sold for just under 3 cents a pop.
His hard work had finally paid off, and within a few short years, the world began to take notice. In 2014, Time magazine named Muruganatham one of the 100 most influential people of the year, and in 2016, he won the Padma Shri, a national award given to Indians who’ve made outstanding contributions to society. Since then, he has supplied over 4,000 machines to women in India and has shipped over 200 machines to 27 developing nations across the world.
His work inspired Twinkle Khanna – author, actor, and producer – to create a feature film based on his life. “Pad Man, I am hoping, is more than a movie – it’s part of a movement where women are no longer hampered, embarrassed, or held back because of their biology.”
The movie is 100% “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, where you can catch the trailer and critic’s reviews. You can see the movie starting today, in select theaters across the U.S.
Have you seen it? Let us know what you think! You can also read more about Muruganatham’s magnum opus over at NPR. Thaïs
Read the full article at: www.bbc.co.uk