Padman is a 2-hr commercial with wings

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After watching Padman yesterday, I realize now that I have come to expect a lot from Akshay Kumar. Baby, Airlift, and Toilet notwithstanding. #Padman is that much-needed correction. An no, I’m not posting pictures with sanitary napkins. #NewWaveFeminism… It’s not for me.

Padman is a 2-hr sanitary napkin commercial. The difference is that for the first time ever, the model is a man and not a woman in white trousers gallumphing about like a newly freed filly.

By now hopefully everyone knows the film is based on Arunachalam Muruganathan’s story and well, the film sticks to the plot. From one side, at least, just as advised by Sonam Kapoor aka ‘Pari’ to Akshay Kumar, while giving him “pheedbak” on his product as his first customer to try on the pads manufactured in his make-shift factory.

In my pheedbak to R.Balki and Mrs. Funnybones, I have made a couple of notes: 

That while AK tries to establish the “period” as something that’s not a disease, his motivation to get his wife to use the pads instead of her “ganda kapda” is his fear of her falling prey to some infection. “Jaan bhi jaa sakti hai“, the doctor says. I don’t know why AK’s’ wife Radhika Aapte never offered to simply change her “ganda kapda” for a “saaf” one.

That one also notices that Radhika Aapte was never meant to portray a woman who thinks to any extent. Her role is restricted to offering up her husband’s hard-earned monies at mechanically operated Lord Hanuman statues and collecting the due prasad and sobbing copiously from time to time. The stigma and shame around periods seem to be the central theme of her life: She chums, her husband fumes. Her husband makes a pad, she fumes because hubby wouldn’t let go of his “obsession” that she herself finds shameful. Repeat and rinse. The “shame” part is never truly fleshed out.

That the point to note is: Ms. Aapte’s Gayatri stands out in the crowd with her bright matte top-of-the-range lip colours. I was hoping to find a more villagey palette there: a glossy burnt-to-the-crisp dark brown or a bloodthirsty glossy red. But, the fact that I’m looking for THIS much detailing itself becomes my way of paying a compliment to a Bollywood film.

Which is all okay. Fancy stuff. Now for some serious stuff.

THAT a major opportunity is missed:

AK also has two younger sisters who are attending school. But the stigma again gets the better of more enlightened behaviour, which is to use pads.

MISSING rather painfully in this rona-dhona and hai-hai is the educative process to address the taboo itself. It is much-needed if this film were to be considered a serious attempt at wiping out the stains of ignorance: Why women menstruate and why it’s a completely natural process and why it shouldn’t be seen as shameful. Why it’s not about “purity”. Why they were secluded in the days of yore. ETC. A cultural, traditional perpective that populated Toilet Ek Prem Katha is truly missing when it could have easily been allowed to take the place of this nose-blowing hysteria. Because, you know what? The man AK is telling you to let go of the taboo so just do it already.

A moment of irony is how song & dance fanfare marks the “coming of age” of a young girl who starts menstruating, the last time anyone views her “situation” with any joy or respect let alone understanding and compassion. Except  AK, that goes without saying, of course.

That is a moment of cultural examination which I myself noted in our family at a much younger age: traditionally, we cook a sweet on the day a girl starts menstruating. There was no song & dance, however. Meh. Moving on.

On Big B, since he’s usually the “apparence speciale” in all of R.Balki’s creative ventures, I have only this to say: his little speech as the guest of honour at the national innovation… at IIT, Delhi, was flimsy to say the least, more jingoism than substance. He waxed eloquent on “Indian innovation” as it so happens, without the filmmaker realising that most Indian innovations are all about taking a Western innovation and readjusting on the cost front. Finally, let’s also remember that Indian innovation has a parallel term called “jugaad” and as far as its merits are concerned, the jury is still out. No offence, innovators, and I love my country, of course.

So anyway, Sonam does a good job overall of playing a young girl who changes the world. Nothing to see here.

And now, for my conspiracy theories regarding the coming of this film:

The developing countries are quickly winding down on the “Sanitary napkin” saga and replacing it with their version of “Ganda Kapda” or “resuable pads”. Yes, unbelievably so, just like most things traditional, the “kapda” pads are making a COMEBACK in the first world. And we, in our third world hysteria for development, will take our time to see this. Just like namakwala toothpaste, neemwala facewash and more.

There’s also a new innovation in the developed world: the silicone menstruation cup which you buy once and, according to a certain ad, re-use for 10 years. The reason being, sanitary napkins are an environmental disaster as well as a public health one. If you think about it, the research on what happens after the disposal of a pad is certainly worthy of a sequel, or a documentary, which, of course, it would be unrealistic to expect AK or R.Balki to show interest in. While you ponder this, consider also the supremely advanced methods of garbage collection, treatment, and disposal that exist in India. NOT.

So the question I submit is, could it be that corporate advertising might has a dotted line to this film?

I know what you’ll tell me: Just go with the flow.

I’ll leave you with these links on reusable cloth pads:

Reusable cloth pad reviews

A ‘sustainable living’ woman entrepreneur’s green pads venture in Bengaluru.

Remember, Padman is a 2-hr sanitary napkin commercial.

 

Humane technology and why good behaviour is a problem

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I am that age where mostly all my friends have a tiny tot or two, some older peers have teens. Absolutely every parent I know struggles with technology, or rather, how to prevent it from being:

1) misused

2) abusive – to health – both physical and mental, to relationships, studies / work

And, a whole lot of times, it’s not just about the kids. For most people, it’s also about their spouses, and friends, and colleagues at work even.

That’s why when I came across the Center for Humane Technology on the Net (http://humanetech.com/)  I was thrilled. Its foundational premise is that technology is hijacking our society. These people are the right ones to talk mainly because they have been on the business side of things – are ex-employees of tech companies that control our social media and other digital platforms on which we have come to rely almost completely for everything – connecting, network, business, shopping, entertainment, education, the list is growing.

Tristan Harris, its co-founder and executive director, in his TED talk here How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day  is all about how to focus your attention on things you want to do rather than fritter it away to the deadly addictive calls of your apps, notifications, social networks, et al.

He says tech could be transformative. It needs to work for the good of humans – our mental health, physical health, our children’s good, our societal good, and not act like a slot machine for these companies and their owners.

He knows that to do this, our entire set of parameters need to change. Human good, quality connections, are the metrics that our tech should be designed for.

Here’s why I think this won’t happen, at least not until people see the harmful effects of this inhumanely designed technology that is current – much like what happened with cigarettes and the smoking industry:

As humans, our education system used to be the tech platform that these companies have become today. Our education system never really looked at any of these metrics either. Happiness, our ability to keep a steady head, our ability not to fall prey to addictions that are life-negating – be it alcohol, drugs, sex, media, substance abuse, even the bad habits of cribbing and negative thinking, depression, etc., our ability to develop our self-esteem… and all of these things that truly matter, did not find mention anywhere in our curricula.

We measured our happiness and self-esteem in our achievements, which are usually about being better than others, our sense of style by the scale and variety of our addictions, our sense of well-being by the size of our homes and memberships to fancy clubs. We made things like depression, attention-deficit disorder, food disorders fashionable.

This education system cannot create individuals who value their lives and the huge opportunity it represents, cannot value their time on this beautiful planet of ours. It’s the value system that needs a change, technology will follow. And, we haven’t reached that stage yet, much like smoking and global warming.

That’s the difference between a life-affirming way of thinking and a life-negating way of thinking.

Whatever actions you are doing today, are those life-affirming for yourself and for those around/close to you? 

Or are they life-negating ones? 

If the latter, please ask yourself why are you doing it even when you know this.

Technology addiction should now be the least of your problems.