Before ‘PadMan’, Came This Docu on the Real Menstrual Man of India
Before Twinkle Khanna made her debut as a producer with PadMan, Arunchalam Muruganantham, who is now virally famous for his invention of a low-cost sanitary pad making machine, was the protagonist of a documentary called Menstrual Man by the Singapore-based film-maker, Amit Virmani in 2013.
After it was screened at the Dharamshala Internation Film Festival, reviews suggested that Muruganantham self-deprecating humour made the documentary about the passionate social entrepreneur an informative and engaging watch. Curiously at the end of the documentary Muruganantham says, “Menstrual hygiene is a subject that can’t be tackled by an advertising or a marketing team.” So much for the PadMan challenge!
Interspersed with moments from stand-up comedian Aditi Mittal’s routine where she takes a dig at the sanitary pad commercials and also some shots of the Hindi film, Meri Jung, the documentary uncovers Muruganantham’s story as a dropout who beats odds and ridicule to eventually emerge triumphant. At a time when only euphemisms were used to refer to menstruation, the man examined strangers’ used pads and wore a pad himself with a ‘uterus’ made out of a football.
Al Jazeera Media Network also produced a short on the man titled, India’s Menstruation Man that traced the man’s obsession with making the perfect sanitary napkin for his wife and how after years of work and separation from his wife, his perseverance paid off.
He found the right material and invented the game-changing machine. Several corporations have offered to buy his machine but he turned them away and instead sold them to women’s self-help groups. His lack of inhibition comes through in this short as well. In one of the scenes, with his peculiar humour, he says of his wife,
“She never came back and after 20 days I got a divorce notice. That’s the first accolade I got for my research.”
Akshay Kumar essays the titular role in PadMan, which is partially fictionalised and set in Madhya Pradesh while Muruganantham hails from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.