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Which came first: Twinkle Khanna’s The Sanitary Man From A Sacred Land (from her collection of short stories) or R. Balki’s script, the basis for the forthcoming feature film PadMan? It turns out that both were being written simultaneously, without collaboration or symbiosis. The commonality, of course, is that both Khanna’s short story and Balki’s film are retellings of the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, the Coimbatore-based creator of the low-cost sanitary pad-making machine. Muruganantham has been the subject of documentary features such as Amit Virmani’s Menstrual Man (2013), but he didn’t part with the film rights to his life story till he met Khanna and Balki. “For one-and-a-half years I didn’t answer them. I first met Twinkle in London and said I would agree only after I met Balki and could explain myself to him. And after seeing Akshay (Kumar) in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Airlift and OMG: Oh My God!, I had the confidence that he will do a good job playing me,” says Muruganantham on the phone. Based on a screenplay by Balki and Swanand Kirkire, PadMan is co-produced by Khanna and features actors Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor.

For Balki, who was approached by Khanna and Kumar to develop this story into a film, adapting a real-life story was a departure. The director of films such as Cheeni Kum, Paa and Ki & Ka had consciously steered clear of biopics until he began exploring Muruganantham’s life. During one of the conversations with Muruga, as he is affectionately called, Balki says he was struck by how his model of success and fame had been inverted. “Muruga said he wasn’t a charity organization—though he knew he was doing good for women, he also said he was in a business where making money (by increasing the cost of pads) would make his venture flop. He said, ‘Only if I don’t increase profitability do I have a business. I will become famous but I will be the first famous man who will be the poorest man. Everyone thinks that by becoming rich you become famous, but I want to say that by not being rich you can be famous too.’”

Duration: 140 min


IMDb: 8.3

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