‘People pick up far more from a tale than from a message’ By SAEED NASIR

R. Balki (right) with Twinkle Khanna (centre) and Akshay Kumar throughout a promotional event in New Delhi.
Filmmaker R. Balki has been a area of the industry for over a decade, but has only directed five videos. He talks to latha srinivasan about his inclination for quality over amount.

The Bollywood movie Pad Man created quite a hype in India before even its real release. Woven surrounding the taboo subject of menstruation and menstrual hygiene, this film is director R. Balki’s first biopic and his first film with Akshay Kumar. In Pad Man, which released on 9 February, Akshay Kumar is playing the role of Tamil Nadu’s Arunachalam Muruganantham, the cultural entrepreneur who developed the low-cost machine for making sanitary pads. But the overall story revolves around a lot more than this technology, and this complexity–of the problem, the story–is what Balki and Akshay Kumar have managed to record so well in this film. The director talks to Guardian 20 about Pad Man, dealing with Akshay Kumar plus more.

Q. What made you decide to take up Pad Man?

A. Twinkle Khanna had satisfied Arunachalam Muruganantham in London and thought it was a fascinating tale. Post that, Akshay called me and asked me if I’d like to do the film. I’ve been cautious with doing biopics as I like to write my own stories. It was the very first time anybody would be doing a mainstream commercial film on a subject (menstrual health), which is so important here. THEREFORE I thought yes! Twinkle then began writing her publication and I started focus on the script with Swanand Kirkire, and both of us finished around the same time. So now we have two different facets of Mr Muruganantham’s life.

 

Q. Just how much of Pad Man is a product of your creative imagination versus Muruganantham’s real life?

A. We have taken some cinematic liberties but often, it’s quite true to his life. His story is so interesting that there’s not much you will need to add–you simply need to capture it wonderfully.

Q. Akshay Kumar in recent times has began doing more serious tasks. Was it interesting so that you can see him step into Arunachalam Muruganantham’s shoes?

A. Actually, I was always sure that Akshay was the perfect person to learn this role, not because he was the main one who called me. He explained I possibly could cast anyone I’d like, but I said he was the perfect person because of this character. In the great deal of ways, Akshay is similar to Muruganantham–he is easy, quite natural and will things without a fuss like Muruganantham. He doesn’t think he’s done something great and just progresses. He’s implemented certain characteristics of Muruganantham but never copied him. Akshay has captured the substance of the character and interpreted it in his own way.

“I had been always sure that Akshay was the perfect person to play this role. He’s like Muruganantham–he is easy, quite natural and does indeed things without a fuss like Muruganantham. He doesn’t think he’s done something great and simply moves on.He’s adopted certain characteristics of Muruganantham but never copied him. Akshay has captured the substance of the character and interpreted it in his own way.”

Q. Amitabh Bachchan is participating in a particular role in your film. You seem to be to have a special romance with him.

A. Everybody has a particular marriage with Amitabh Bachchan and loves him– not simply me. There are a few assignments that he loves to say yes to, and when I asked him to produce a special appearance in Pad Man, he said yes. I can’t see anybody else playing this role–if you start to see the film, you’ll really know what I’m saying.

Q. Has Muruganantham seen the film?

A. He knows about the film and my storyline. The only thing Muruganantham kept saying was: “Forget my entire life, forget my history. Make this an entertaining film–unless it’s interesting, nobody are certain to get the concept.” He’s not into documentation–the satisfaction of the film is very important.

Q. How important do you think it is to get the main topic of menstrual hygiene across to people?

A. It is greatly important, but it is also about getting people and sharing with them a tale. People have a tendency to pick up a lot more form a story than from a note. It’s an psychological love story which journey is a result of the profound love he had for her. It’s not a preachy film but it’s a traditional love story-based film.

Q. Arriving at music maestro Ilaiyaraaja, the facts about his music and him that you like so much?

A. He’s my inspiration; he is music if you ask me. He is my background rating in life!

“Muruganantham kept expressing to us, ‘Neglect my life, neglect my story. Get this to an entertaining film–unless it’s interesting, nobody are certain to get the concept.He’s not into documentation–the pleasure of the film is very important.”

Q. In a job spanning a decade, you’ve just done five movies. Will you be particular about the type of films you take up?

A. I write my own motion pictures and I don’t write anything unless I really believe it’s an idea or a thought well worth spending a couple of years years on. Filmmaking is a laborious process and something needs to be worth it–it can’t be just money or other things. The idea is what drives you. When you are passionate about the theory, making a film is a much more pleasant task

R. Balki (right) with Twinkle Khanna (centre) and Akshay Kumar throughout a promotional event in New Delhi.
Filmmaker R. Balki has been a area of the industry for over a decade, but has only directed five videos. He talks to latha srinivasan about his inclination for quality over amount.

The Bollywood movie Pad Man created quite a hype in India before even its real release. Woven surrounding the taboo subject of menstruation and menstrual hygiene, this film is director R. Balki’s first biopic and his first film with Akshay Kumar. In Pad Man, which released on 9 February, Akshay Kumar is playing the role of Tamil Nadu’s Arunachalam Muruganantham, the cultural entrepreneur who developed the low-cost machine for making sanitary pads. But the overall story revolves around a lot more than this technology, and this complexity–of the problem, the story–is what Balki and Akshay Kumar have managed to record so well in this film. The director talks to Guardian 20 about Pad Man, dealing with Akshay Kumar plus more.

Q. What made you decide to take up Pad Man?

A. Twinkle Khanna had satisfied Arunachalam Muruganantham in London and thought it was a fascinating tale. Post that, Akshay called me and asked me if I’d like to do the film. I’ve been cautious with doing biopics as I like to write my own stories. It was the very first time anybody would be doing a mainstream commercial film on a subject (menstrual health), which is so important here. THEREFORE I thought yes! Twinkle then began writing her publication and I started focus on the script with Swanand Kirkire, and both of us finished around the same time. So now we have two different facets of Mr Muruganantham’s life.

 

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