Padman is Akshy Kumar’s latest movie based on the life of a superhero Arunachalam Muruganantham, an Indian school-dropout, who invented low-cost machines to manufacture sanitary napkins for women.
The idea emerged when Muruganantham discovered that his wife used old rags during her periods. His empathy to provide his wife with safe hygienic pads made him prepare cotton pads. He tested his pads on his wife and even on himself with animal blood in a bottle which could squeeze blood on to the pad in regular intervals. His neighbors called him the ‘pervert’ and his wife left him so that he could come to his senses. It took him two years to discover the exact material to manufacture good quality pads and additional four years how to process it.
Muruganantham found out that women in India used unhygienic things such as old rags, newspapers, sand, leaves and even ash during their periods, leading to many serious infectious diseases such as cervical cancer. While only 12% of Indian women used pads while on periods and Muruganantham wanted to change it. The imported pad-machines cost as high as $500,000, so he decided to create low-cost and easy-to-use machine. His rigorous research eventually succeeded in inventing a low-cost machine which costs just $950.
Instead of selling his machine to highest bidder, Muruganantham supplies his machines to rural communities. So far, he has sold 1,300 of his machines to women who manufacture their own low-cost pads and sell the surplus. Thus, lots of rural Indian women have jobs besides access to hygienic pads.
Muruganantham’s emphatic invention has sparked interest around the world. As many as 27 states in India have been supplied with the low-cost machines while recently Muruganantham has started exporting his machines to other Third World countries. Muruganantham – the son of a weaver – proved that ‘empathy is the most revolutionary emotion’. Time Magazine put him in the list of 100 most influential people.
PadMan is the latest Indian movie based on the life of this real-life superhero. The movie is aimed to be ‘menstrual awareness’ for societies where menstruation is a taboo subject. Many villages in India isolate women while on periods barring them from temples, working in kitchen, washing and cleaning etc. This not just undermines women’s status but can have serious impacts on their health as well. Regarding the nature of the subject, Muruganantham’s social entrepreneurship has been appreciated all over the world. The movie PadMan is the first movie to becoming the subject of discussion at Oxford Union. Noble Laureate Malala Yosufzai and Bill Gates appreciated the subject of the movie.
However, it was unfortunate that the censor board in Pakistan banned the movie without watching it on the pretext that it was against ‘our history and culture’.
Menstruation in Pakistan is a taboo subject as it is in most Indian villages. Women are very uncomfortable and shy regarding their biological functions. Majority of rural women have no access to hygienic pads or awareness to avoid the disease which mostly results due to the lack of proper hygiene while on periods. Even those who have access, pads are handed wrapped in plastics or envelops as if it is a shameful thing to use. This irrational and extremely conservative mindset depicts how harsh our society is for women. Perhaps, dark ages’ ignorance has become the essential part of ‘our culture and history’ which are threatened by movies like PadMan and social entrepreneurs such as Muruganantham, which the members of our censor board will never allow to happen. Perhaps, we shall never let our society to be a safe place for our women to live with.