Akshay Kumar Interview: When I came to know about Arunachalam’s work, I felt this story deserves to be told
Pad Man is Akshay Kumar’s first release of 2018. He will shortly be seen in 2.0 followed by Gold.
After the rousing success of his social-drama film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, superstar Akshay Kumar is back with yet another message-driven film, Pad Man. Helmed by renowned filmmaker R Balki, the movie talks about the taboo topic of menstruation and how women in rural India deal with it. Also starring Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor in principal roles, Pad Man arrives in cinemas from today onwards. A few days before the release of the movie, BollywoodMDB correspondent Mohnish Singh met the megastar and tried to glean more details about the movie. Here are the excerpts from the interview with Kumar.
Q. How has been 2017 for you and have you make any resolution for 2018?
A. 2017 was a good year. As far as my resolution for 2018 is concerned, I could not find one. You can suggest me if you have a good resolution for me.
Q. Do you think there is a pressure on you to do 3-4 films in a year because it generates a lot of work for so many people involved with those movies?
A. No, there is no pressure. I have been doing this for last 27 years now - to be more precise, 27 and a half year. So, there is no pressure. I love doing what I do. I enjoy it as well. Generally, a film takes only 40-45 days in the making. Suppose I do only one film in a year, what will I do during the rest of the days of the year. If I do 3-4 films, it keeps me occupied throughout the year. I get some free time even after doing so much, I do advertisements or go to events to cut ribbons.
Q. Your film Pad Man talks about periods? When did you come to know about menstruations?
A. It was kept hidden from me for a long time. I came to know about it over the period of time as I grew up. Menstruation is totally a natural phenomenon. It is not a taboo. It is extremely unfortunate to know that around 82% of women in our country are not educated about it. As a society, we have always had this topic brushed under the carpet. Majority of women in rural areas does not have access to sanitary pads and they, therefore, resort to means which are unhealthy and unsafe. So, it is very unfortunate. That women use dirt and even ashes during their periods is something which I came to know about only 2 years back when we were planning this film.
Q. Sanitary pads are beyond the reach of many women not only in rural India but in cities also as they are way too expensive. There are high GST charges on it. Do you think that our government should remove GST on sanitary napkins?
In fact, I believe sanitary napkins should be provided free. I think we should reduce the defence budgets and spend that money on such causes. Even if we reduce 2 percent of our defence budget and use that money for the upliftment of our women, it would make a large impact. What is the point of spending so much money on defence when your women are not strong? When 82 percent of women do not use sanitary pads… they don’t have money and don’t know about it. And they are made to sleep separately… made to go through many tribulations for no rhyme of reasons.
When I met Arunachalam Muruganantham, I got to know how he cared so much for his wife that he made his whole machine in merely Rs 60000. He is wielder and this was an innovation. If you make women strong it will make country strong.
Q. What propelled you take up this film?
A. The story of Arunachalam Muruganantham inspired me immensely. He has an excellent motto – “Women Stronger, Country Stronger”. I really liked this about him. His effort in developing low-cost sanitary pads for his wife is a proof that how much he loved her. When I came to know about his work, I felt that this story deserves to be told and I should produce it with my wife.
Q. How was the experience of meeting Arunachalam Muruganantham for the first time?
A. It was amazing meeting him. I learned and discovered a lot of things from him. Initially, he was very hesitant to talk to me. When I made efforts to speak with him, he clarified that he doesn’t like talking to men much because they are very slow in understanding things. So, I think we men should buck up.
Q. How much menstrual awareness is important in the society today?
A. It is very much important. The suffering that women go through during the menstruation phase is painful. They are not allowed to enter the kitchen and cook food. Their entry to temples is restricted. Girls run away from schools because they are teased. They are constantly under pressure because of people around them. It is really a hell-like situation for the women. So, awareness is important at school as well as at home level.
Q. Did you not find it challenging to put this subject in front of the audience?
A. I really did not find it challenging. I found it to be natural. I think that people should come out and speak about such topics in the open.
Q. Salim Khan had once said – “Akshay Kumar is the only actor who has constantly invented himself with diverse roles and will surely be ahead of his contemporaries in the years to come.” What is your take on this?
A. I am really happy to hear this from such an esteemed person from the industry. I don’t think there are predefined rules and regulations in the industry for a film to be a hit. There isn’t any formula to make a hit film. As an actor, I always maintain uniqueness in my characters. Post Pad Man, I will play an antagonist opposite Rajinikanth in 2.0. So, I try to keep a different flavor and match between my films.