Interview Hindi

Sonam Kapoor: I kept telling my mother there is something wrong with me

The actress talks about her own experience and explains why Pad Man is not just a social film but also a love story.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mayur Lookhar

Fashionista that she is, Sonam Kapoor turned up for the Pad Man promotion in style, in black formal trousers and white top. It looked as if she was headed for a fashion show, but she was there to speak about her upcoming film, also starring Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte.

Pad Man is inspired by the life of social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented a machine to produce cheap and hygienic sanitary napkins.

One of the first questions posed to Kapoor was if she would soon be tying the knot with businessman beau Anand Ahuja. The actress refused to comment, except to make it clear that she was not going to get married anytime soon.

Veering towards her agenda for the evening, Kapoor was dismayed that only 12% of the country's female population uses sanitary napkins, and reminded the 'family audience' that Pad Man is not just about addressing menstruation. Excerpts:

Your character in the film is fictional. Did that make things difficult for you?

Sonam Kapoor and Akshay Kumar in a still from Pad Man

I did a film called Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) where my character didn't exist in real life. The whole spirit of the film [Pad Man] is inspired by Arunachalam Muruganantham who manufactured low-cost sanitary napkins. He is not Punjabi. So, by that count every character in Pad Man is fictional.

We have taken inspiration from a story and recreated it as a different story. The spirit of what he did, we have tried to show in our film. I guess my directors like to do that, they just like to cast me in their films.

First Neerja (2016), now Pad Man. Then there is the Sanjay Dutt biopic. You seem to be taking up one biopic after another. How have you gravitated towards them?

I believe that whenever you get to be part of a story that advocates some kind of change, it is important to do those. So there was Neerja, after it I am doing Pad Man, I haven’t had a release in between. I shot four films, they are all releasing one after the other. I have Veere Di Wedding, then I have Shiddat, that is a biopic, too, then there is Ek Ladki Ko Dekha and The Zoya Factor. I do all kinds of films.

I am not thinking that this is a biopic, but what is going to inspire me to be a better artiste. What is inspiring me is that I will be proud of the story that I’m part of. Some of these stories are very inspiring. Whether it is a story about a girl from Bandra or the story of Zoya from Benares, or a princess from Rajasthan — they are all stories of girls from India. These girls are all very rooted. These have to be stories that resonate with our audience.

Do audiences come to watch films addressing social causes only when they have stars in them?

I think so. We lead very difficult lives. We are not a rich country. When you go to the cinema, you want to see something that gives you joy, uplifts you, but with that if you have a story which is saying something, that combination is great.

It’s amazing that an Akshay Kumar is doing a film like that. He is using his stardom to do something amazing. Aamir Khan does the same. If I have to do a film like Neerja, then I also have to do a Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015) because there is a reach to such films. You hope that the same people would also come to watch a film like Pad Man.

Menstruation is a very personal issue. As the youngest in a family with four sisters, I could never talk about these things with them or with my mother. Even today families may not be comfortable watching a film like Pad Man together. What message would you like to give society at large?


Arunachalam Muruganantham (right) and family with the Pad Man team

That’s a great question. At the end of the day we should not forget that Pad Man is also a love story. It’s a story of a man who was so much in love with his wife that he wanted to make her life better. So, if anybody wants to convince their family to watch this film, they should say this is a story of an extraordinary man who tried to make the condition of women better, because he really loves his wife.

That is the crux of the film. Whatever good anybody does is all because of love. It can be love for your dear ones or love for your country or work, that emotion drives us. The different manifestations of [love] make you better. It makes you want to achieve something. That emotion makes you selfless. Yes, the film is about this man who sold sanitary napkins for as low as Rs2, but what was the reason for him to do something? What was the reason for an uneducated man like him to think in such a progressive way?

When director R Balki narrated the story to you, were you taken aback by the reality that many women do not have access to sanitary napkins?

That only 12% of women have access to sanitary napkins is dismal. We have 1.3 billion people in India of whom 50% are women. Is this a small number? The fact that only 12% of them have access to proper menstrual hygiene is scary. They use awful products, they use ash, mitti [earth], leaves, dirty cloth. That is not a good situation. There is no awareness. There is a lot of stigma attached to menstruation. You are not allowed to enter the kitchen, use the same toilet for those 5-6 days, they are treated like untouchables.

You posted a tip on Instagram that a girl should have a chocolate during periods. Any other tips?

Oh, that was a joke! Yeah, but that was true. I guess you should have hot packs for pain. That helps me a lot. Drink lots of water. Do workouts, the more you move, the better it is.

Can you talk about your first period?

I was 15 years old when I got my periods. All my friends had got them way before me. So I was very upset. I was relieved when I finally got it. I kept telling my mother that there is something wrong with me. So, I was happy when I got my first period.