Video grab from The Pad: A Period Drama, which features a mother talking to her son – played by Aditya DeSousa – about menstruation

Aditya DeSousa, 9, who features in The Pad: A Period Drama, discussing menstruation with his on-screen mother, has become an internet star with his easy performance.

GROWING up one would remember the sanitary napkin ads, which mostly featured embarrassed teenage girls, being placated by mums, who vexed over their daughter's menstrual hygiene. So, when nine-year-old Aditya DeSousa featured in a menstrual awareness video recently, the young boy was definitely breaking away from tradition. Little wonder why the Beacon High School student from Khar has become an overnight Internet sensation, conquering the hearts of millions of viewers in India.

Aditya is a student of Beacon High School in Khar

Sensitising boys
Contrary to popular imagery, The Pad: A Period Drama, features a mother talking to her son – played by Aditya – about menstruation. It begins with Aditya sitting on a chair with a pad in his hand stolen from his mother's cupboard, asking his group of friends a question: "Do you know what this is?" This is followed by silly jokes among the boys. The mother overhears this conversation, and decides to sensitise him on the issue. The video ends with a rap sung by the mother, telling her son how menstruation isn't a taboo.

Directed by Gaganjeet Singh, 26, a graduate from IIT-Mumbai, the video has already raked in 15,606 views on YouTube and has gone viral on Facebook.

Aditya with parents Dr Avinash and Jaya DeSousa
Aditya with parents Dr Avinash and Jaya DeSousa

Playing the part
While Aditya is the star of the moment, it's his parents, who played a major role in helping their son engage with the topic. When they were first approached for the ad, they were slightly apprehensive. "I was sceptical about it because he was too young to discuss the issue. Secondly, we didn't know how people would react to it because in India, there is still a lot of stigma associated with the topic. But, being a psychiatrist, I knew how important it was to make our society aware," said Aditya's father Dr Avinash DeSousa, who is a research Associate at LTMG Sion Hospital and founder of DeSousa Foundation.

Aditya didn't know anything about menstruation, till until before the documentary. His parents decided to have a talk with him. "My wife Jaya and I spoke to him about it. We used diagrams to explain the process, and taught him that period wasn't an issue to be shy about. This did not only made him comfortable, but also helped him, when he was acting," said Dr DeSousa.

One can't deny that the kid is already aware of the responsibility that comes with acting. "I want to use my acting skills to promote a cause that would have an impact on the society. Yes, I was shy about doing the ad, but I was able to overcome it."

Engaging parents and kids
Director Singh says the video was intended to create awareness among both children and parents, and help rid the stigma associated with menstruation.

When he first met Aditya, he was skeptical if he would be able to play the role. "But, the entire credit goes to his mother, who sensitised Aditya about the issue and made him comfortable. That made us more confident about the project."

Incidentally, Singh, who has always co-written the script for the video, initially planned to have a girl play Aditya's role. "But, later I changed my mind and decided to have a boy instead," he said.

For now, Aditya will be shooting two new videos to spread awareness about mental health. "He has been getting many offers for ads and serials, but we want to him to take up serious issues rather than focus on meaningless videos," Dr DeSousa said.