Phullu movie review: This 'small' film delivers a big message about menstrual hygiene
Even before its release, the film Phullu has been in the news for the 'A' rating given to it by the Central Board of Film Certification. There have also been comparisons to the in-the-works Akshay Kumar-starrer Padman, a biopic on real-life menstrual hygiene revolutionary Arunachalam Muruganantham. Meanwhile, there have been calls on social media to support this 'small movie'.
So how does Phullu, directed by Abhishek Saxena, play out?
We start out with the titular character (Phullu is portrayed by Sharib Hashmi) that's the typical good guy. Hashmi tries a little too hard with the accent and the act. Phullu's mother sells quilts because he doesn't have a job. He helps out his mom by procuring all the raw material for the quilts from the nearby town. In addition, he also picks up all the other stuff the women in his village may need from there.
When Phullu gets married, he realises that his wife keeps taking away pieces of red cloth from the material he gathers for the quilts. He wonders about it, but doesn't connect the dots as he knows nothing about menstruation. Nether his wife or mother explain the concept to him.
The women in his life also want Phullu to move to a big city and find work. But he's adamant about staying back in the village.
Finally, a turning point in Phullu's life comes when he finds out about menstruation through a female doctor at a chemist's shop on one of his city visits. He finally begins to understand why his wife needs the cloth, and why she suffers from itching every night.
He then takes rather drastic step of using all the money reserved for the last installment payment for his sister's jewellery to get a whole lot of sanitary pads. His furious mother kicks him out of the house, saying that he's wasted the money she earned with so much difficulty. When he tries to protest that the sanitary napkins are more important, his mother says her grandmother used wood to get rid of the itching and went on to live for 102 years, so pads are irrelevant.
The first half of Phullu, then, is all about establishing the story. A word here about Inaamulhaq, who has a cameo: the actor does an amazing job in the two scenes he has. These scenes also have the best writing in the film.
Phullu goes to the city, where he gets in touch with the doctor who'd educated him about menstruation. He manages to create a sanitary napkin of his own. However, his mother and sister refuse to test it, as do the other women in the village for whom he used to run errands in the city. His wife is pregnant at this time, so she can't help him out either.
There are many similarities to Arunachalam Muruganantham's story, but if there is one point at which it diverges, it is in how supportive Phullu's wife is, of his endeavour to manufacture low-cost sanitary napkins. However, there isn't much focus on the technicalities of how an uneducated man is able to come up with a manufacturing process for these sanitary pads.
Overall, Phullu should be credited the most for the issue it brings to the fore. It addresses a taboo exactly how it should be addressed — subtly, yet with a much needed sense of normalcy. Unfortunately, in parts, this film comes across as over-the-top, thanks to its background music and the theatrical dialogue delivery of its lead actor. Nonetheless, Hashmi manages to carry the film on his shoulder with the able supporting cast, including Nutan Surya and Jyothii Sethi. Director Saxena manages to transport you to a rural setting but the pace often goes for a toss. The end hits you hard — not because you did not see it coming, but because of how it adds to the irony of the film.
Last word: Phullu is recommended for its intention and effort, but not so much for its cinematic nuances.