Mumbai, 28 Feb 2019 16:00 IST
The Oscar-winning documentary short opens up the conversation on the topic of menstruation.
Producer Melissa Berton ended her Oscar acceptance speech with the impactful statement, "A period should end a sentence, not a girl's education!" Berton and director Rayka Zehtabchi's award-winning documentary has grabbed eyeballs around the world with its win.
The 26-minute short, an initiative of The Pad Project, has been backed by American students at Los Angeles’s Oakwood school who raised money for the film and to get a machine to make low-cost sanitary pads through bake sales, yogathons and a Kickstarter online campaign.
If you have viewed last year’s Pad Man (2018), starring Akshay Kumar, you will be familiar with the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, whose life was adapted for the film. But unlike the mainstream Hindi feature, the Indian inventor of the pad machine has only a cameo in the documentary short. The women of Hapur district, around 60 km from New Delhi, are the real stars of the film here.
From the first frame, where the filmmakers ask young, shy, giggling schoolgirls about menstruation, these guileless women fill the screen with their candour. Some confess about never having heard of a pad; another married woman confessed that she had to stop studying as changing her cloths all the time during menstruation was a hassle.
Words like ‘illness’ and ‘problem’ are used by both men and women to describe what defines a period. However, the documentary makers have a solution.
Muruganantham’s pad machine is installed in Kathikhera village to be helmed and managed by its women. They learn how the pad is made, bit by bit, and it becomes a means to empower them and change their lives through employment. They, in turn, pass on the knowledge of menstrual hygiene to other women in neighbouring villages.
An older woman, Shabana, adopts humour and a water absorption test to demonstrate the use and benefits of the local, cheaper sanitary pads produced by them. Another worker from the village is Sneha, a forward-thinking, independent young woman who dreams of being a police officer in Delhi. She eagerly challenges age-old traditions and is saving money from her earnings towards her future.
Period. End Of Sentence. is executive produced by Sikhya Entertainment’s Guneet Monga and Hollywood producer Stacey Sher whose daughter is one of the students who helped to conceive of The Pad Project. And it is clear to see why this feel-good documentary made the connect with Academy voters. And thanks to Netflix, more viewers will be able to catch it too.
Which is not to say the documentary short wipes out years of ingrained patriarchy and heralds in feminism overnight in Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh. There is only so much that can be shown in 26 minutes. However, the seeds of change have been planted, and, over time, they too shall flourish.
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