In a country where the sanitary napkin brands whisper their names in their own commercials, it can be seen as a bold move to make a mainstream Hindi film that goes by the name PadMan. Based on a real story, the film deals with the unnecessary taboo around a very regular periodic bodily function. Granted that this can be seen as a risky move on the director R Balki’s part, but this isn’t the first time that he has tried to introduce a fresh take on a story that needed to be told.
R Balki is an acclaimed ad filmmaker but the Hindi film audience remembers him as the man who was behind Amitabh Bachchan’s Auro in Paa and the man who broke social convention when he cast Tabu opposite Big B in a love story.
Balki has constantly tried to tell his out-of-the-box stories in a peculiar way. They may always not hit the bulls-eye but they are sufficient enough to start a conversation. His last film Ki & Ka tried to reverse gender stereotypes. Though it created even more troubling stereotypes, it was still applauded for its fresh approach.
With Shamitabh, Balki narrated a tragic tale. At the core, the film was about insecurities, competition, stardom and success but not all of that came across on the screen. Many found faults with the science behind the voice box and there were others who found the concept too far-fetched.
But the Balki of these two films was dramatically different when compared to his earlier works. His directorial debut Cheeni Kum still doesn’t feel dated even though it released over a decade ago. Cheeni Kum was the love story of an older man and a much younger woman. To put his story in perspective, it was repeatedly stated in the film that the protagonist of the film is even older than his lady’s father. With clean storytelling that was enhanced by superlative performances, the film was humourous, relatable and memorable.
Even with Paa, Balki deeply impressed his audience when he presented Amitabh Bachchan as a school going child. The story of the film was engaging but the sub-plots, quite unnecessary. But with all these films, Balki has repeatedly shown that if there is a story to tell, there can be surely more than one way to do so and he chooses the path less traveled.
PadMan is another feather in his cap as once again, Balki has chosen a subject that many might have shirked away from but not only has he tried to get rid of the taboo, he has also made it acceptable in mainstream Hindi cinema.