Padman producer Twinkle Khanna says Akshay Kumar, R Balki have ensured nothing in the film is discomforting
Akshay Kumar’s Padman marks his wife Twinkle Khanna’s maiden production venture and even as she looks calm and unruffled just a week before the movie hits the screens, the debutante producer does admit that she will be curious to know the numbers on the day of the release, on 9 February. “It is not bothering me right now but if you ask me on that Friday, I will give you a different answer. On that day, I will be definitely curious to know the numbers,” is Twinkle’s honest answer.
And this is not the first time that we have heard her candid confession. Known for her candour and wit, the former actress, has, in the past made fun of her acting skills innumerable times and she says that she feels “liberated” in doing so. “Acting was never been my cup of tea and if I praise myself for something I was never good at, people would know that I am lying and even I know that I am lying. So it’s better to be honest. Those were not my strengths. How liberating it is because once you say it and make fun of yourself, what is left for other people to say? Today I am playing to something I am good at,” says the writer and social media sensation, while carefully spinning words with utmost clarity and precision. As you listen to her, you feel you were reading a perfectly worded column of ‘Mrs Funny Bones’. Clearly she fits in quite well now as a bestselling author and a first-time producer.
Padman is based on a short story from Twinkle’s book, The Legend Of Lakshmi Prasad. The story is inspired from the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a Tamil Nadu-based social activist who revolutionised the concept of menstrual hygiene in rural India by creating the low-cost sanitary napkins machine. “My role (as a producer) in this whole conversation about menstruation began in 2015 when I first wrote a column on menstruation. Then, in 2016, I wrote Muruganthanam’s story and in 2018, we are coming out with the movie. So my role in the beginning was to meet and convince Murugananthanam, get the rights to his life and story, then it was about script and story discussion, going to Maheshwar and looking at locations. I am not the line producer, I am not there on the set. I didn’t want to be on a film set when I was getting paid for it and I don’t want to be there when I am paying other people (laughs out loud). Now, after the film is complete, I am involved in marketing and promotions,” she said.
Considering the long history of menstrual taboos across nearly all cultures, Twinkle, who confessed that matters related to menstrual cycle were not normal for a large part of her own life, said her main aim from the film is “to normalise the biological function”. “It should be as normal as the fact that we have to brush our teeth and have a bath. Sanitary pad is not a luxury item, it is a necessity. We want girls to tell their father that it should be made part of their family budget rather than shying away from the topic and manage with whatever is available like cloth rags, socks, torn bed sheets,” said Twinkle, further adding, “Before the trailer was out, I did have some apprehensions that how will the film be received, what would people say. But once the trailer was out, it has been the most watched trailer of any Indian movie and then with the response we got, I feel I am not afraid of that in the least bit. Also, R Balki (director) has skillfully made sure that nothing in the film will be discomforting aside from the fact that we are addressing the taboo subject in a completely unapologetic manner. After the first three minutes, you are immersed in the story, plot and what is happening next. The fact that you are actually talking about something that you have never spoken to your wife, or your mother has never discussed with you, is lost in the story; but you come out of it with new insights that you have so far never ever discussed with anybody.”
Twinkle continues, “Coming from a slightly more progressive background, for a large part of my life, I did not take out a sanitary pad from my handbag and go to bathroom, or if it fell off my bag, I would be embarrassed. If I have to go to a religious ceremony when I am menstruating, I still have to discuss with myself that, ‘It is alright, I am not committing a sin, it is fine.’ So, if women like me who has spent time studying and researching this topic are going to think like this, then what about other women?”
Akshay may be her biggest cheerleader but Twinkle being unapologetically honest about her point of view and take on everything in life in her blogs could cause embarrassing for her politically correct superstar husband. So does Akshay, at times, censor her columns? “Akshay does give me some advice. Normally, it is sensible advice because I do have the tendency to get carried away. Left to my devices and I might have people throwing stones at my glass windows. But it is important in any partnership to let people the way they are, to let them find their own space. At this point in my life, you can’t control anybody in your life or anybody’s work around you, not even your own children. The only person you have barely control over is yourself and that too just about. So I think for two people who live and work together to have different attitudes and political and social world-view, it is good to see what you can learn from the other person rather than try to change them and make them like you,” said Twinkle.
In his recent interview to Firstpost, Akshay said that Twinkle explains everything to their son Aarav and that nothing is hidden in their family, to which Twinkle said, “I learnt along the way but perhaps my nature is inherently like that, that I have always made jokes about everything in life. So when my son was young, many times I remember my husband saying it’s very inappropriate what you are saying in front of him, he is so young. But what it did was it kept the door open. I can’t say I am a successful parent because parenting is never over but if at some point, when he is undecided about which path to take, hopefully he feels he can talk to me at that point as well.”
While she and her husband, more or less, may be on the same page now after over 15 years of togetherness, it is the oft-repeated question thrown at her that how she manages work and children that irks Twinkle, who has her own ideology on feminism. “I tell people that why don’t they ask the same question to my husband as well. But even today, whether you are working or not, child raising is a woman’s job. You look at any school’s WhatsApp group, you will only find women and maybe just one solitary father in a class of how many ever. So if you are asking that have we reached a place of complete equality, no we haven’t. To me, feminism is about women having equal opportunities right from the time when they are in the womb and not killed till the time when they have education, social and employment opportunities, and that for me is feminism. Treat us as if our gender is irrelevant,” said the star-wife.
Coming back to Padman, Twinkle, who had earlier thought of making a small art house film with newcomers and a smaller budget, finally decided to cast her superstar husband to make all the difference in its reach. “As we were working on the journey and I was talking to Akshay, it struck me that if you have someone like him holding a sanitary pad in his hand, half your work is done because he is idolised by so many. There are so many men and women who look up to him and who will say: ‘Fine, this is alright. It is okay for me to talk about it’. And once we realised that then of course, the whole perspective of this project changed,” said Twinkle.
And as we wind up, I tell her that many years ago, a prominent ad personality had handed over a packet of sanitary napkin to me as he held the account of a well-known brand, Twinkle, a keen listener with a curious mind, immediately popped a question – “So were you embarrassed?” When I replied in a negative, she was relieved probably hoping that the audience, too, won’t be embarrassed in flocking to theatres when her debut venture releases on 9 February. And it could be yet another compelling story from Mrs Funny Bones.