Padman normalises the idea of menstruation; it will certainly start a dialogue in our country, says Sonam Kapoor

Seema Sinha

Feb,07 2018 08:30:50 IST

Looks like it is raining biopics for Sonam Kapoor. So far, we have seen her in two – Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s 2013 film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and when she essayed the titular role in Neerja, a biopic on Neerja Bhanot, a valiant Indian flight attendant. The film went on to become one of the top grossers of 2016.

While the release of Sanjay Dutt biopic is awaited, in which she’s reportedly essaying the role of one of Dutt's love interests, Sonam will soon be seen in R Balki directed Padman, a biographical comedy drama that addresses an important issue like menstruation through the fascinating life story of social entrepreneur and activist Arunachalam Muruganantham (portrayed by Akshay Kumar) who invented a machine to make low-cost sanitary pads about 20 years ago. Though fictional, Sonam plays a pivotal role of that of a progressive modern woman who supports Akshay in his mission and also turns an English tutor for him. Akshay and Sonam were last seen together in Anees Bazmee's Thank You seven years ago.

Sonam Kapoor. Twitter/ Sonam Kapoor Russia

Sonam Kapoor. Twitter/ Sonam Kapoor Russia

“I think my directors just like to cast me in their films (laughs) because even in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, my character did not exist either. Actually, the whole spirit of Padman is inspired by Arunachalam. He is also not a Punjabi, so everybody is fictional. It is only an inspiration from his story. We have officially asked him if we could get inspired by his story,” said Sonam, who believes that Neerja gave filmmakers the confidence to make such “brave”, “real” and “inspirational" films. “I don’t know if Neerja's success helped me but it will help me eventually since the producers are ready to put money on these kind of subjects. A good film will always do well and it doesn’t have to be a project,” she said.

“I like being part of films that advocate some change in society. Padman normalises the idea of menstruation, which is something natural and it will certainly start a dialogue in our country. What I liked most about the film is a man working towards making a woman’s life better. We have to fight for ourselves but getting support from the other sex makes this love story far more beautiful. But I am not doing just biopics. Besides Dutt, there is also Veere Di Wedding, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (her first film with her father, Anil Kapoor) and The Zoya Factor (big screen adaptation of Anuja Chauhan’s novel). They are all releasing one after the other. I do all kinds of films. It all depends on the role and what is going to inspire me to be a better artiste. Some of these stories are very inspiring and in India we have so many stories to tell. I am inspired by what India stands for and I am not talking about nationalistic India. I am talking about India as a whole; India of different religions, cultures, castes and people,” Sonam added.

And even as the tag of ‘fashionista’ never goes away from her image, Sonam said her film choices will always remain far reaching and that she will pick stories that are grounded. “I might dress in designer clothes but if you see the trajectory that I have followed, five or six years back I decided to do films that are entertaining as well as socially relevant. It is very important to do films that reach a wider audience and have something relevant to say. Whether it is a story about a girl from Bandra or Bombay, or whether it is a story of Zoya from Benares or a princess from Rajasthan, or Mili from Delhi; these are all stories of girls from India, be it from modern India or from small towns and villages. I am a very very Indian girl. I might be from JVPD (Juhu) Scheme but the story I pick should resonate with audience,” she said.

However, Sonam has her own theory about doing a commercial blockbuster like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo alongside Padman or Neerja. “In India, we lead difficult lives. We don’t have it easy. We are not a very rich country. So when you go to cinema, you want to watch something that gives you joy, happiness and something that uplifts you, and along with that, if you manage to tell a story with a message then that combination is great. And it’s amazing that superstars like Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan want to use their stardom to say something relevant that is far reaching. If I have to do a film like Neerja, I also have to do a film like Prem Ratan... because there is a reach in that and it is possible that same people will watch my Neerja or Padman. They would have found me entertaining and glamorous in one, and saying something socially relevant in the other,” she explained.

Coming back to Padman, Sonam said she was shocked when R Balki, who she describes as compassionate and broadminded, narrated her the script. “To know that only 12 per cent of the women have access to an absolute necessity like sanitary napkins is a dismal number, a very poor statistic. With millions of women not able to follow proper menstrual hygiene and health is very scary. They use such awful products like ash, mud, leaves, dirty cloth, there is absolutely no awareness. Then there are several taboos...being treated like untouchables and not being allowed to stay in the house, not allowed to use toilet or the same utensils for those many days...We are from Bombay (Mumbai), we must have only faced stigmas like our grandmothers telling us that we can’t visit a temple or we can’t go near them while they are making pickles. But these, too, don’t have any logic to it.”

Further, Sonam said that it's the awareness and exposure she has had (that) has given her the courage to do a film like Padman. “Lot of girls would be scared to do a film on period. I am very grateful to my parents for the education and upbringing. I didn’t even think about it, not even for a moment when I was offered the film,” she said.  And when Sonam was asked about the reaction of her first period, she said, “I was 15 when I got my period and all my friends had gotten that way before me. I was very upset that I had not got it. So when I actually got it, I was very relieved because I kept telling my parents that there is something wrong with me as I did not get my periods. So, I was very very happy.”

(Also read — Padman: R Balki says 'Nobody could have played lead role except Akshay Kumar as without him, there's no reach)

Updated Date: Feb 07, 2018 08:30 AM