PadMan and other Bollywood movies challenging Indian society taboos

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Akshay Kumar starrer film PadMan has attracted a lot of attention recently. The movie is about one of the most “introverted” female-oriented issue- menstruation and its hygiene. 


Yes, India has shown progress but there is still scope of a revolution in terms of the thought process. We claim to be educated yet when an advertisement on sanitary napkins appears on the television screen; one feels tempted to switch the channel.  Periods (menstrual cycle) are a part of this thought process! It has long been considered a sign of weakness and has restricted women to do many chores. While the truth, that period occur, will not change but the sensitivity of men towards women can make lot difference at home and workplace. Even as there are scientific reasons why women did not enter the kitchen area and temples (places of worship) during periods back in the days (because of certain chemicals that the body releases during those days) the superstition part, however, has been a bit too much. Instead of explaining the science behind it, many older women have been just rubbing the rules on the younger generation decades after decades.

Based on true story

A movie like PadMan, which is based on the true and inspirational life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist from Tamil Nadu who introduced low-cost sanitary pads, hopefully, can challenge such philosophy. The film has done well at the box office and was able to earn approximately 57 crores in six days after the release. A hit movie it surely is! A movie that aims to change the mindset of society and pushing its boundaries to open up to women “personal” issues- that’s PadMan for you!

Social Media flooded

The film PadMan made headlines on social media by challenging and daring the commoners and celebs alike. #Thepadmanchallenge on Instagram gained a lot of popularity with the support of Bollywood actors such as Alia Bhatt, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma among others. Because of this challenge, the movie garnered a lot of positive remarks; and masses have been talking about it fervently. Akshay Kumar gave a statement to a news agency that he was told on social media ‘holding a sanitary pad is a sin’! (For God’s sake). But the actor firmly believes that his film will de-stigmatize menstruation.

Here is a look at other movies challenging the social taboos



Kaun Kitne Paani Mein

Released on 28th August 2015, directed by Nila Madhab Panda, the movie stars actors like Kunal Kapoor and Radhika Apte in the leading role, along Saurabh Shukla and Gulshan Grover. The movie talks about significant and not-so-much-talked about social issue of water scarcity, caste discrimination, and honor killing but with a satirical approach. Kaun kitne paani mein received mixed reviews from the critics.

kaun-kitney-paani-mein- padman challenge akshay kumar


One of the critic remarked and praised the movie saying, “This Radhika Apte, Kunal Kapoor starrer takes a strong stand against the barriers of caste and class. The director’s commitment to social values is clearly visible in the film and he deserves praise for his efforts” and gave it a rating of 3 stars out of 5. A vast majority of Indians still live in rural areas and these issues are common even now. The urban crowd, on the other hand, considers these issues as extinct and do not consider it a huge back draw of the country!

Margarita With a Straw

Margarita with a straw is a 2014 drama film directed by Shonali Bose, starring Kalki Koechlin as Laila a teenager girl with cerebral palsy. Other actors include Revathi and William Moseley. This is the first Indian movie exploring the complex and taboo social issues like the inclusive environment and human sexuality.

margarita with a straw padman akshay kumar bollywood films social cause

Laila, played by Kalki moves from New Delhi to Greenwich Village for her undergraduate education and comes of age following her complex relationship with a blind girl, played by Sayani Gupta. The film earned positive reviews at several International film festivals such as Tallinn Black Nights; the BFI London; the Vesoul Festival of Asian Cinema; and the Galway Film  Fleadh. Commercially Margarita with a straw did moderately well.

Udta Punjab

Udta Punjab came with a lot of controversies on 17 July 2017. Directed by Abhishek Chaubey and having a large ensemble starcast such as Shahid Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Alia Bhatt and Kareena Kapoor Khan in the leading roles, this movie was much liked. The movie has two storylines and revolves around the drug abuse by youngsters of Punjab state and the various conspiracies surrounding it. 


udta punjab drugs social cause padman akshay kumar movies


It shows the darker side of the state. The movie has been reported to have had issues with the censor board over profanities and scenes of drug use. A noted movie critic wrote “the film is hard-hitting and uncomfortable to watch, and mixes dark humor to a tale about the dirty drug and political nexus in Punjab”, and gave this movie a 3.5 rating out of 5. This dark comedy raised an important social cause of youth being attracted to drugs and powerful people supplying these drugs through medicine to the public.


Parched released on 23rd September 2016 in India is a powerful movie which reflects the life of three main female characters Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), Lajjo (Radhika Apte), and Bijli (Surveen Chawla) living in a desert village of Rajasthan. All of them face struggles in their daily lives.

parched padman challenge akshay kumar

The film raises significant social issues such as patriarchy, child marriage, dowry, marital rape and physical and mental abuse.
A popular newspaper gave this movie a 4 out 5 stars in terms of rating and mentioned that Parched “takes you into a disturbing and thought-provoking territory”.

Toilet: Ek Prem Katha

The film was released on 11th August 2017. It was a comedy-drama film entirely based on the lack of proper sanitation. This Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pandekar starrer film was the first movie of its kind. The film also shows superstition as a back draw in the Indian society which pushes growth further. Akshay Kumar dug a toilet in Madhya Pradesh to promote the film and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, called it a good effort to further the message of cleanliness, as per Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.  


toilet ek prem katha akshay kumar movies padman

A leading critic gave the film 4 stars out of 5 quoting “Director Shree Narayan Singh holds up a mirror to society, showing us how our superstitious villagers, lazy administration, and corrupt politicians have actually converted India into the world’s largest shit-pond. Women especially are treated more insensitively than cattle!”.

Lipstick under my Burkha

Lipstick Under My Burkha is a 2016 Indian black comedy film written and directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha. The film stars Ratna Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur in leading roles, along with Sushant Singh, Vikrant Massey, Shashank Arora, Vaibhav Tatwawaadi and Jagat Singh Solanki in supportive roles.

lipstick under my burkha akshay kumar padman

The film battled censorship after it was denied release in India in January 2017, stating “There are contagious [sic] sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of society.”
But eventually, with support from media and appeal to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), the film was released with 16 voluntary cuts and an A certificate. The movie talks about women sexuality, rights, freedom, and menace of eve-teasing.





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