In my desire to expand the horizons of my film-viewing palette, I took a turn into one of the most populated countries in the world: India. Last year, I saw my first fully-fledged “Bollywood film” in 3 Idiots, which was fine. Though one particular critic I trust finds the whole of Bollywood to be an incredibly overrated spectacle that has rarely produced anything all that noteworthy. Curious to see for myself, I picked out Pad Man, a film with a very distinct synopsis.
It did not help the cause.
“Upon realizing the extent to which women are affected by their menses, a man sets out to create a sanitary pad machine and to provide inexpensive sanitary pads to the women of rural India.” – IMDb
A Quick Crybaby Paragraph
Why are Bollywood films so long? While I was browsing for available Bollywood films available via streaming services, only one (out of, like, twenty) was less than two hours. Is it a rule that they have to be incredibly long? I was seeing runtimes on average of about two and a half hours! Please, have mercy.
Here’s something fun: I think 3 Idiots and Pad Man have a lot in common. What’s the major difference? Where the former got away with its incredibly blunt moral messaging with an engaging, if not cartoonish cast, the latter is just incredibly blunt moral messaging.
Before I go on, let me make it absolutely clear that I am not bashing this film for taking a stance on more women in India using menstrual pads. That seems cool with me and I support that. What irks me about it is just how blunt it is—I’ve mentioned plenty before that blunt-force execution of a film’s message is a big no-no in my book.
Pad Man sees a sweet, ambitious guy (who is basically perfect, almost Jesus Christ-like) wanting to take care of his wife after he discovers she uses a dirty rag to catch the bleeding from her period. His efforts prove fruitless, however, as every attempt to buy (and eventual create) a pad for his wife backfires tremendously, bringing shame to his family throughout the community.
As his wife told him early on: Women would rather die than live in shame. It’s one of those horseshit outdated oppressive fear-mongering societal regimes taking effect. (There’s some evidence of my approval of the film’s message.)
After about forty minutes, I was simply done. The point had been made. Mr. Pad Man just wants to help his wife, but his wife wishes him to stop obsessing over “women problems.” Over and over, he keeps headbutting into the same scenario will the same inevitable result with no variation. Oh, how desperately I wanted to scream at him to “JUST COMMUNICATE BETTER!” The dialogue is so frustratingly limited and reserved, and only serves to make most characters cartoonishly overdramatic and/or stupid.
The film is 130-minutes-long. I was over it by the forty-minute-mark. While I won’t be hyperbolic and say the remaining 90 minutes were torture, about 70 of those 90 minutes were fairly hard to sit through.
A specific scene has someone at the construction site the male lead works at get injured on the job. The effects they used to showcase his injury looked so bad. Unbelievably fake. A few other situations used some odd-looking effects that brought me out of it. And, in a noticeably high quantity, the editing was rather suspect—cuts and cuts and cuts and whoa, what is happening here?
Bigger than everything, even the obnoxious first-half, was a word called “convenience.” My goodness, this guy had everything go his way, huh? Sure, you could say it’s karma given the constant failures that ripped him away from his family initially. But wow, suspension of disbelief as a concept should not be applied here whatsoever. I was rolling my eyes fairly often at just how often the lead was at the right place at the right time, met the right people, and haphazardly acquired the proper material to create his pads.
Its (partial) saving grace was the final act. The last twenty-ish minutes or so are actually fairly charming, taking all that came before and giving it some needed closure. We get to see the male lead do a presentation that showcases him as a charming, funny person (far more than any other scene in the film showed prior). Albeit cliché and debatably stupid, his pivotal decision at the end makes sense. If the total product matched the quality of the last… sixth(?), I’d be more praising this. Alas…
Every database I’ve seen Pad Man on, it manages to accumulate a lot of good scores. I do not agree. Yes, it has a good message. Yes, it’s satisfying to see a man go through harsh trials and find some form of redemption. What it also is is fairly annoying in its execution, shoddy in its editing, and hyperdramatized to the point of hilarity. Maybe I just don’t get it? Whatever the case, it’s not something I’d recommend to those who notice a lot of holes in writing.
Final Score: 4/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!
Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.