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#PadMan #FilmReview #Entrepreneurship #WomenEmpowerment

June 5, 2020

Bollywood films have always been on our agenda. We do film screening of one classic Bollywood film each year. This year, however, due to the pandemic of Covid-19, it’s very unlikely for Bollywood Fever to take place as planned.

Nevertheless, this does not stop us from sharing good Indian films to our audience. The film we would like to share today is a fairly new one—Pad Man (2018). Pad Man tells the story of an ordinary man who deeply loves his wife. He is a normal repairman with only a junior high school degree. Simply for his wife’s health during her period every month, he has developed a low-cost sanitary pad production machine. However, during this process, he has gone through the difficulties that people cannot imagine. Just like what he says in the film ‘This cheap pad, has just cost me many sleepless nights, a wife, a mother, a village and all my self-respect. All it took was my brains, and a debt of 90,000 Rupees to make this cheap pad’. Things start to change after he meets the very important person in his life—Pari. She helps him unconditionally along this entrepreneurship journey until he reaches the peak of success at the end of the film.

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<Pad Man> Lakshmi and Pari

The first message this film tries to convey is gender equality and women empowerment. The film is set in India in the 1990s. At that time, especially in rural areas, women’s period is considered to be unclean. So during their periods, women will consciously move the bed outside and avoid contact with any men, including their husbands, because they consider themselves as ‘dirty’ by default and cannot eat with her family. The kitchen is also their restricted area, and female students cannot go to school during their period too. Due to the double suppression of economic conditions and traditional culture, they can only use old clothes, dirty rags, and even leaves and sawdust as ‘pad’ during period. The hygiene condition is so worrying that they are easily infected with diseases and even die. The male protagonist Lakshmi, out of his incomparable love for his wife, leaves the job aside and is obsessed with the ‘big cause’ of self-making sanitary pads. But this road is not easy to go. He is misunderstood by his family and despised by the villagers. The whole village even wanted to hang him to death. Moreover, his wife could not understand him or bear his “craziness” and goes back to her maiden house. Various difficulties comes one after another, but all these never overwhelm him. He wants to make his wife’s humiliation into respect.

The second half of the film sees the turning point. After having failed in making pads by himself for many times, he decides to make the pad machine instead of making pads. From this moment, he has officially begun his entrepreneurship journey. While on this journey, another woman appears—Pari, an artist who has an MBA degree and is equipped with modern independent mindset and strong business acumen, who ‘makes Lakshmi fly’ in his own words. They work together. Lakshmi makes pads and she sells them. As time goes on, more and more women join them and start learning how to make the machine and selling pads. They have created jobs for hundreds of thousands of women in rural India. Just as he says in the film, ‘Besides doing this job, this pad can soak up all the problems in these women’s lives’.

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Eventually, he is invited to the United Nations to give a talk on his pad story and women empowerment. He addresses in his talk that ‘I believe, big men and strong men don’t make country strong. When women are strong, mothers are strong, sisters are strong, then country strong! Today the pad machine is making women strong. They use pads and live life to the fullest.’ 

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Lakshmi has a deep sense of mission that he must not only give his wife dignity, but also give dignity to 600 million women across India by creating jobs for them. After all these unremitting efforts, he finally succeeds and breaks the country’s long-standing stereotypes against women. After the film was released in India, society views towards women’s period have been changed greatly. The movie is set out to solve the most practical problems in society.

The second message we have seen is certainly about entrepreneurship. This subject is particularly revealed in the second half of the film. At the beginning Lakshmi only has an idea of making one hygienic sanitary pad for his wife, but later this one pad turns into millions for millions of women in India. Initially it was only Lakshmi and Pari, these two persons working together in Lakshmi’s small warehouse. As days pass by, more and more women also men join their workforce and run the business together with them. These women who joined later on start working and making money for themselves. They are also allocated shares by Lakshmi and able to earn a living for themselves and their families. The whole ‘Lakshmi Enterprise’ creates not only pad machines and pads, makes profit for the business, but also stems radical social change—he creates employment for millions of Indian rural women who would have never had access to financial resources due to the traditional cultural values imposed on them and socio-economic pressure in rural society. He encourages Indian rural women to start production by themselves and achieve economic independence which can not only greatly increase the use rate of pads for women’s health, but also bring a lot of employment opportunities for women. This is such a significantly huge social change across India and this also makes Lakshmi a successful social entrepreneur.

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His spirit of fearlessness and courage to think and to do, his ability to cooperate with others and turn ideas into reality, along with his contribution to the country of India and some countries in the world has truly inspired us in every aspect in our entrepreneurship journey.

The film Pad Man is based on the real story of the Indian social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham—the real Pad Man! He is the inventor of the low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and is credited for innovating grassroots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India. He has provided employment opportunities for millions of unemployed women in India. In 2014, he was included in Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2016, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India.

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This is a movie that we highly recommend to watch especially during the quarantine. Watch the Pad Man movie on Netflix.

 

Courtesy of ‘The Designer

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