R. Balki: Akshay Kumar is one of those actors who does not talk about world cinema
All humans are equal and there's no reason to be loud about one specific gender, says acclaimed filmmaker R. Balki
All humans are equal and there's no reason to be loud about one specific gender, says acclaimed filmmaker R. Balki, whose Padman, about a man focused on women's menstrual hygiene, is releasing on Friday. Whether it was Paa or Ki & Ka, Balki has always projected women characters as exceptionally strong, and without having the tag of a "woman-centric" film. Asked if that is his way of celebrating feminism and gender equality, Balki told IANS, "I think the term gender equality is a cliche. People are equal. Whether it is rich or poor, black or white, man or woman, and people with different beliefs, we are equal."
Pointing out that a relationship is about the dynamics between two people, Balki said society tends to stereotype the roles. "We have preconceived notions" about how a man and a woman should behave. "I don't think about making a woman-centric film that way. Women are the progressive thinkers, some of them are outspoken, some are not, but in their heart, they all think progressively. I see no reason to project them as backward in a few films and then as progressive in other films."
Citing an example, Balki, who turned from a successful ad man to a director, said, "The other day, I was reading somewhere that a mother-in-law motivated and encouraged her daughter-in-law to finish higher education and pursue a career. So you see, these people exist. We stereotype a mother-in-law." Does he make an effort to project the man-woman equation as complementing each other? "(It is) not exactly a conscious effort, but that is how I think. My films are a reflection of my thoughts. I want to capture things the way they are because that is the beauty of life," he said.
"For instance, in 'Padman', Radhika (actress Radhika Apte) is playing a conservative housewife. But if you look closer, she is not a backward-thinking woman. She is just living in a society where even though she knows certain things are wrong, she cannot change the world. We tend to show people are fighting to come out of a situation, but no, that is not always true. We don't have to find one wrong thing in a person, and highlight it. It does not have to be that loud all the time. It is about how we can complement each other to find a way to celebrate life... that's the beauty."
The narrative of Padman is based on the short story titled "The Sanitary Man of Sacred Land", about the real-life hero Arunachalam Muruganantham, who invented a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine. Asked if he made any changes to the story while adapting it for the big screen, Balki said: "Yes, there are some major changes. I introduced the character of Sonam (actress Sonam Kapoor) in the film. I added some funny incidents in the story and some other little changes. I took some amount of cinematic liberty."
"Look, the film is not a documentary. It is a feature film. When I spoke to Muruganantham, I told him that I want to make a film that, after watching, you should feel, 'I wish I led my life like this.' So as a director, I kept the core of the story and his personality intact, but made certain changes to make it more interesting to watch as a film." This is the first time Balki has worked with Akshay. He calls him an effortless actor. "Akshay is cool. I have so much love and respect for him. He is one of those actors who does not talk about world cinema and intellectualise the process of acting and filmmaking; but when on set, as the camera rolls, he is up with his best game. He is a so sharp and effortless as an actor, I love that about him," Balki signed off. Padman is releasing on Friday.
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