We all know that Akshay Kumar is making a movie based on Padma Shri award winner, Arunachalam Muruganantham who made low cost sanitary napkins for the women in his village in Tamil Nadu. But before that we have another movie, Phullu, a fictional tale that's inspired by Arunachalam's efforts, but based in a hamlet in Orissa. However, director Abhishek Saxena has said in an interview that there are many other people, like Arunachalam, who have made cheap sanitary napkins for their village woman and the movie is inspired by all of them. Sharib Hashmi, known for his performance in Filmistaan, plays the lead here. Will Phullu give jitters to Akshay Kumar? Time to find out…
What's it about
Phullu (Sharib Ali Hashmi) is a jobless youth who lives with his hardworking mother (Nutan Surya) and a younger sister. He goes to city to buy stuff for the women in the village, but doesn't want to take up a job there. His mother gets him married to Bigni (Jyoti Sethi) in the hope that he will be more responsible, but he would rather spend time romancing his wife. During one of his visits to the city, he learns about the existence of sanitary pads and how the women of his village use waste clothes to stop their period flow and risk infection in the process. Stunned by this revelation, he buys pads with the money his mother had saved for his sister's jewellery but his family berates him for wasting the money. Undeterred, he returns to learn about how these pads are made so that he can make cheaper ones for the women in his village. (Also read: Phullu, a socially relevant film about menstruation, gets an A certificate and Twitter rages a bloody war against CBFC)
One thing I have to admit is that Phullu has its heart in the right place. The premise is really hard-hitting and the message that it wants to convey is something that needs to reach every corner of our country. Although we are near the end of the second decade of the 21st century, many of us are still of the opinion that menstruation is unholy and considered as a disease. Women are not allowed to enter holy places when they have their periods, and people still have some amount of embarrassment buying napkins even in the city. There are still places in India where women feel that napkins are only for the rich. It feels strange that it is the women themselves who are encouraging most of these misguided notions. So as a film, Phullu manages to address all the above misconceptions, along with dowry, caste differences and a few other social ills. It also conveys that while the Government is trying to make sure cheaper pads are to be made, the middle-men who arrange for production and supply do not allow this to happen. So addressing these issues make Phullu an eye-opening experience at times.
The performances from the main cast are all good. Sharib Ali Hashmi is endearing and carries the movie on his shoulders. Jyoti Sethi is quite good, while Nutan Surya who plays Amma, is terrific. Inaamulhaq (having a reunion of sorts with his Filmistaan co-star) has a hilarious cameo. In fact, this was the best scene of the movie.
While Phullu has its intentions right, it falters big time in sending the message across. The movie spends too much time in establishing the domestic bliss between the leads rather than getting to the point. There are also portions where the movie's narrative is on an extremely sluggish mode, making you lose interest in what's happening on screen. There is a subplot of a crime journalist and her selfish husband that wasn't required per se. The camera-work is shaky in a few scenes, while the sound editing leaves much to be desired. Being an indie film-maker working on a limited budget, I do understand the director had his constraints in making the movie. Considering that, we are willing to forgive all the above, had Phullu managed to even resolve the real issue at hand. It doesn't.
The movie's bone of contention was not about Phullu making cheap sanitary napkins, but how the women in his village accept the idea. Unfortunately, the movie does little to give a proper conclusion, and the abrupt climax will leave you high and dry. Inventions and discoveries have no meaning unless they are accepted by others - a fact that the movie disregards as it delves into melodrama and unwanted songs. Above all, the movie's purpose was to connect with the audience and educate them about the issues it wants to address. But the slow pace and unresolved threads make Phullu a decent watch only for a niche audience.
What to do
I would laud the makers of Phullu for addressing issues many filmmakers would rather shy away and educate us about the pains and discomfort that women are going through every month. Phullu has its heart in the right place but lacks conviction in how the story has to be narrated. With lack of marketing and slow pace, Phullu would end up as a just-decent flick that should only be seen for the message that it is trying to convey.
2.0 out of 5
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