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Interview Hindi

Forget reducing GST, sanitary pads should be made free: Akshay Kumar

During an interview with Cinestaan.com, Akshay said that he feels that the defence budget should be reduced by 2%, and the money should be used towards 'making women stronger'.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Suparna Thombare

Akshay Kumar's next film, Pad Man tackles the important issue of menstrual hygiene, based on the story of Tamil Nadu's Arunachalam Muruganantham, who built a machine that could make pads accessible and affordable for women all over the country. 

Akshay makes it very clear at the outset that he decided to make the film only because he feels strongly about the subject, and it is his attempt to banish the taboo attached to the subject. 

"Like it happens in most homes, the subject of menstruation was hidden from me too. As I grew up I came to know. But exactly how it happens and why it happens and about other important things like the fact that 82% of the women in our country don't know about pads... what women use instead, like mud, leaves, ashes etc. I learnt all these things two years back, before we started making this film. That is when I thought that it is the kind of movie that should be made and awareness should be spread that it is not a taboo. It is a natural thing," says Akshay.

It was meeting Arunachalam Muruganantham that further helped him understand the psychology behind his brilliant innovations and achievements in creating low-cost pads and the importance of it. 

"When I met Arunachalam Muruganantham, I understood his psychology. He did it for his wife and he made this whole machine. He made a machine that was supposed to cost crores of rupees in just Rs60,000. And he is a welder. I found his story very interesting. I loved what he said 'women strong will make country strong'," says Akshay.

The actor feels that more attention should be paid towards making sanitary pads accessible to women who cannot afford them. "What is the point of spending so much on defence when your women only are not strong? When 82% women don't use sanitary pads! They don't have the money or they don't even know about it. And they are also excluded. They cannot go to the kitchen or to the temple. And there are so many rules and regulations for no rhyme or reason."

Recently, the government's move to charge 12% GST (Goods and Services Tax) on sanitary napkins came in for a lot of criticism from several citizens, political parties and social activists. Akshay is very clear that GST should not be charged on this important product — a necessity for menstrual hygiene.

"According to me, forget reducing GST, sanitary pads should be free. Spend 2% less on defence. There must be around 50 crore women. Out of that only 10% can afford pads, the rest can't, and just using that 2% towards sanitary pads can solve the problem. And what problem have we solved? We have made our country's women stronger." 

Akshay also feels that the social taboo attached to menstruation is the source of all problems.

"Reaching puberty should be celebrated. When you celebrate it then a girl thinks it is something good. When you hide it, she starts thinking from that age only that it is something she should hide and be ashamed of. Their confidence level starts going down."

Akshay feels that he has already managed to achieve a lot of what he had set out to by making this film — start a conversation about pads. "I don't know whether the film will be a hit or make money when it releases. But I am happy. I am happy because I open my social media and people are talking about pads... men are talking about pads too. That is what I wanted."

Directed by R Balki, Pad Man will be released in theatres on 26 January.