After delivering an award-winning performance in the 2016 film Neerja, actress Sonam Kapoor will soon arrive in cinemas with her next film, Pad Man. Also starring Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte in central roles, the movie talks about a very significant topic of menstruation and how women living in rural areas deal with it. Before the social message driven film hits the screen on 9th February, BollywoodMDB correspondent, Mohnish Singh, meets the gorgeous actress and has a freewheeling chat with her about the film and much more.
A. I did a film called Bhaag Milkha Bhaag where my character didn't exist in real life. The whole spirit of this film is inspired by Arunachalam Muruganantham who manufactured low-cost sanitary napkins. He is not Punjabi. So, by that count every character in Pad Man is fictional. We have taken inspiration from a story and recreated it as a different story. The spirit of what he did, we have tried to show in our film. I guess my directors like to do that; they just like to cast me in their films.
A. I believe that whenever you get to be part of a story that advocates some kind of change, it is important to do those. So there was Neerja, after it, I am doing Pad Man, I haven’t had a release in between. I shot four films, they are all releasing one after the other. I have Veere Di Wedding, then I have Shiddat, that is a biopic, too, then there is Ek Ladki Ko Dekha and The Zoya Factor. I do all kinds of films. I am not thinking that this is a biopic, but what is going to inspire me to be a better artiste. What is inspiring me is that I will be proud of the story that I’m part of. Some of these stories are very inspiring. Whether it is a story about a girl from Bandra or the story of Zoya from Benares, or a princess from Rajasthan - they are all stories of girls from India. These girls are all very rooted. These have to be stories that resonate with our audience.
A. I think so. We lead very difficult lives. We are not a rich country. When you go to the cinema, you want to see something that gives you joy, uplifts you, but with that, if you have a story which is saying something, that combination is great.
It’s amazing that an Akshay Kumar is doing a film like that. He is using his stardom to do something amazing. Aamir Khan does the same. If I have to do a film like Neerja, then I also have to do a Prem Ratan Dhan Payo because there is a reach to such films. You hope that the same people would also come to watch a film like Pad Man.
A. That’s a great question. At the end of the day, we should not forget that Pad Man is also a love story. It’s a story of a man who was so much in love with his wife that he wanted to make her life better. So, if anybody wants to convince their family to watch this film, they should say this is a story of an extraordinary man who tried to make the condition of women better because he really loves his wife. That is the crux of the film. Whatever good anybody does is all because of love. It can be love for your dear ones or love for your country or work, that emotion drives us. The different manifestations of [love] make you better. It makes you want to achieve something. That emotion makes you selfless. Yes, the film is about this man who sold sanitary napkins for as low as Rs2, but what was the reason for him to do something? What was the reason for an uneducated man like him to think in such a progressive way?
A. That only 12% of women have access to sanitary napkins is dismal. We have 1.3 billion people in India of whom 50% are women. Is this a small number? The fact that only 12% of them have access to proper menstrual hygiene is scary. They use awful products, they use ash, mitti [earth], leaves, dirty cloth. That is not a good situation. There is no awareness. There is a lot of stigma attached to menstruation. You are not allowed to enter the kitchen, use the same toilet for those 5-6 days, they are treated like untouchables.
A. I was 15 years old when I got my periods. All my friends had got them way before me. So I was very upset. I was relieved when I finally got it. I kept telling my mother that there is something wrong with me. So, I was happy when I got my first period.
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