PadMan has temporarily united Bollywood. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, social media has been filled with the #PadManChallenge, where people took a photo of themselves holding a sanitary pad.
From Farhan Akhtar to Shabana Azmi, Ayushmann Khurrana, Aamir Khan and several others, the challenge was accepted and done, bearing captions on how there’s nothing to be ashamed of something that is natural. And if not the pad, there were those posing with cloth pads, tampons, and menstrual cups to spread further awareness on the environment too.
Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte, Sonam Kapoor and the PadMan team should be lauded in their effort to create a dialogue on menstrual hygiene though the challenge was started as part of their promotional campaign.
In 2012, a documentary titled Menstrual Man by Amit Virmani was out, focusing on the stories of women in rural areas and how they deal with menstrual hygiene while also bringing into focus Arunachalam Muruganantham’s story, the person who inspired PadMan.
Menstruation is the big elephant in the room in a country where advertisements continue to pour blue liquid on sanitary napkins to show how there won’t be any leakage. Barring a few films, mainstream Bollywood has never been comfortable dealing with menstruation. A few years ago, a film dubbed for pre-teens called Gippy had a scene that showed the teenager getting her period while she was returning home from a party. It also showed her mother lending her one of her sanitary napkins.
Other films such as Traffic Signal, Fire and Chokher Bali have shown menstruating women but mostly represented as a matter-of-fact, as a normal occurrence in their day-to-day life.
While digging deeper, Quora threw an interest result. Mayur Puri, a Bollywood screenwriter and lyricist who has worked in films like Om Shanti Om, Happy New Year, shared on Quora that a song from the film, Aap Ki Kasam (1974), might have alluded to menstruation.
Starring Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz, the song ‘Paas Nahin Aana’ features a young couple in a garden, the woman eating ice cream, while the man gets aroused watching other couples making out in a garden. He initiates intimacy but she reminds him: “Paas nahin aana, bhool nahin jaana. tumko saugandh hai ki aaj muhabbat bandh hai” (Don’t come close and don’t forget that you have an oath not to make love today), hinting that while she is in the mood, lovemaking is cancelled today.
The woman teases her lover, singing that it’s so much fun to live like this despite the hearts beating heavily. The man, on the other hand, tells her to stop teasing and not give any excuse.
She sings back, agreeing that she is, much like him, in the mood too but, “aaj muhabbat bandh hai”. The film was directed by J Omprakash and the lyrics were penned by Anand Bakshi.
Puri in his Quora response writes how Bakshi deftly connected periods and lovemaking in the song.
“Anand Bakshi, the genius lyricist and God of writing songs for unusual situations, cracked this really difficult situation (I’m a lyricist and I know how difficult it is) and wrote a song so beautiful that not only justifies the situation completely, but is also innocent enough to be sung by a 12-year- old. So my friend, periods have been there in Hindi movies. Since 1974!” he writes.
In recent times, periods have mostly been spoken about by stand-up comedians such as Aditi Mittal and Kenny Sebastian. Also, one can always fondly look back to that song ‘Period Paatu’ by Chennai-based rapper Sofia Ashraf that was released on World Menstrual Hygiene Day last year.