Director R. Balki who has critically acclaimed films such as Cheeni Kum, Paa, Shamitabh, Ki and Ka to his credit gets candid about his upcoming directorial venture PadMan which takes on the stigma associated with Periods. In an exclusive conversation with Indus Age, Balki talks about Arunachalam Muruganantham, the real Pad Man, about Akshay Kumar playing the lead in the film; how he wants to engage the audience and how menstruation is a normal thing and much more. Excerpts:
By Nidhi Kumari
The topics of your films are real, original, not done or touched upon before. And there’s no fixed formulae that you follow, you keep experimenting…Your thoughts on that.
Every film maker wants to do something that has not been done before and I am no different. But I choose topics that excite me. I always like to do films that are not so much– that mirrors life. But films that actually make people- ‘Wish! life was in a certain way’. Or a person was like this, or a relationship was like this. Some way or the other something should be kind of a wish for people…something they must want to be, that’s what I try to create through my films.
What is your prime responsibility as a filmmaker?
My first and prime responsibility is to engage the viewer. By engaging I don’t just mean entertainment, I want to make people laugh, cry, think and feel through my films. And it’s not about merely delivering a message for three hours as people come to cinema not to listen to a lecture. It’s about keeping the audience engaged.
And when you are doing a film on a sensitive topic, such as menstruation, do you think it adds on to the responsibility?
Yeah, of course, but I don’t know why we keep calling menstruation a sensitive issue? Because I feel it’s such a natural process. Like when men shave their beard we don’t call it sensitive. So, I think through cinema we can break that barrier by talking about it (menstruation) freely.
There’s a man who has dedicated his life for the cause of menstruation, so why can’t we talk about it? Why are we so hesitant to talk about something which is so natural and normal?
PadMan is a biopic based of the life of the real PadMan of India, Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham. Can you recall your first interaction with him?
Yeah, I remember the first time I met him in Coimbatore, I went to his workshop with Twinkle (Khanna) and he told us stories of his life, which is so inspiring.
You know there’s a beautiful incidence that happened when I met him. He’s such a simple man, he doesn’t have any accountant or anybody in his workshop so all suppliers (of raw materials and other things for the sanitary machine) who come for payment, Mr. Muruganantham just signs blank cheques and leaves it on a table. Each one of the suppliers’ comes, fills their amount and takes it. And when I asked him the reason, he told me- “I don’t have money, what would anybody take from a person who doesn’t have much?” So, his story is so beautiful.
He told me, “If I make money my business will go down, because if I make money, my machines will become expensive and pads will become expensive. Then what is the point of me doing this revolution at all?” So his whole model is based on not making money. It’s a very very pure way of doing business and he’s such a driven man with such great thoughts, is remarkable.
You are a successful film maker and so is Gauri (Shinde) your wife…it is said – That behind every successful man there’s a woman, how far do you agree with that?
Not behind, they are on the front, on the left, on the right, everywhere (..smiles..).
In an interview with Indus Age, Radhika (Apte) said that R Balki is a feminist. What do you have to say?
I can’t understand the meaning of feminism as it’s a natural thing. How can you say that women are equal to men, they are not equal they are superior. Feminism says that all women and men are equal but I feel women are superior. I don’t have a word for them, may be superiorism as I believe women are superior to men.
Audience cannot wait to watch Akshay Kumar in the film and he has done full justice to the character can be seen from the trailer. Your comments.
It’s there for you to see. That’s what I believe. Akshay hasn’t imitated Muruganantham. He has taken the soul of the character and he has interpreted it in his own way.
Any sequence or scene from the film which is your favourite:
Akshay did an 11 minute scene in New York. It was 11 minutes and he did it in one take just like that, magically. So, it’s a remarkable performance to hold a scene for 11 minutes in one take.
Apart from being a notable film maker, you’re one of the leading names in the Indian Advertising industry. Can we say that your first love for advertising made you a noteworthy film maker that you are today?
Actually, I came into advertising because I wanted to be a film maker. But then I got addicted to advertising so I don’t know which came first, but I genuinely love both. Both are forms of communication and expression.
Do you have any plans of working for the Indian TV industry?
I really have no issues working for TV or a web series but I don’t have any ideas right now that would work for it. It’s not the medium (TV or web), it’s the idea.
Last but not the least; what do you want the audience to take away from PadMan?
I just want that they enjoy this film. And see that menstruation is no big thing and it’s a very normal, natural process to talk about it freely.
Some quick questions:
Your inspiration or idol in life: Ilayaraja
What keeps you going in life: The thought of the next idea
Advice for younger generation: You can admire someone and be inspired by someone but be yourself and be your own role model.
(Interview courtesy: Mindblowing Films)