After delivering movies like ‘Toilet; Ek Prem Katha’ that touched the all important aspect of building toilets for women and sanitation, Akshay Kumar‘s home production PadMan delivered dollops of information on menstrual hygiene. Directed by R. Balki, featuring Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar and actresses Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte, the movie PadMan has opened along with positive reviews.
PadMan is based on the real-life story of entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham, who took upon himself the responsibility of providing cheaper sanitary napkins to the women of his village. While most men squirm at the mention of sanitary napkins, Muruganantham decided to do something on this issue after seeing his wife using a dirty rag for her periods because she couldn’t afford costly sanitary pads. After watching his own biopic, Muruganantham coudn’t stop his tears and said: “It was like my whole life, all its struggles and strife, all the grief and joy, flashing in front of me. I couldn’t have hoped for a better film on my life and struggle than this.”
Here are 10 interesting facts about Muruganantham that inspired Akshay Kumar to do a movie on his life:
1. Poor family background
Muruganantham hails from a very poor family. His parents were handloom weavers in Coimbatore. After his father died in a road accident, his mother supported his schooling by working as a farm labuorer.
2. School dropout
By 14 he dropped out of school, and after that worked at various places. He used to supply food to factory workers and to support his family, worked as machine tool operator, selling agent, farm laborer, welder, and the likes.
3. High cost of pads forced him to come out with cheaper version
Shortly after he got married in 1998, he saw his wife used dirty rags and papers to deal with menstruation, since sanitary napkins made by multinational companies were expensive. Infuriated over this, he started designing experimental pads.
4. Periods a taboo in Indian society
Muruganantham first used cotton but this idea was rejected by his wife and sisters. Moreover, they also stopped co-operating with him and refused to be the test subjects.
5. Tested pads on himself
During the initial phase of his pad-making, he searched for ladies volunteers but couldn’t find any since in India menstruation is widely considered a forbidden subject. After finding no solution, he started testing it on himself using a bladder with animal blood. However, he soon became a subject of mockery after his work was discovered in the community.
6. Analysed the product thoroughly
Undeterred by negativity, he distributed his produce free of cost to girls in a local medical college. He wanted to analyse his product. After few years he learnt that the pads companies used cellulose fibers derived from the pine bark wood pulp. The fibers helped the pad absorb while retaining its shape.
7. Set up an economical pad making machine
His idea was to manufacture pads while keeping the cost at the minimum. For this he set up an economical machine that required least training. He got the supply of the processed pine wood pulp from a source in Mumbai, and the machines would mill, de-fibrate, press and sanitize the pads under ultraviolet before packaging them for sale. The device costs around Rs 65,000.
8. Got idea registered
During a visit to IIT Madras in 2006, they got his invention registered for the National Innovation Foundation’s Grassroots Technological Innovations Award. He won the award too.
9. Got seed funding
It was no looking back for Muruganantham thereafter. He obtained seed funding and founded Jayaashree Industries, which now sells these machines to rural women across India. The machine has been widely appreciated for its effortlessness and cost-effectiveness.
10. Refused to commercialise the product
Muruganantham received several offers from corporate houses, but he refused to commercialize his project. He continues to provide these machines to self-help groups run by women.
11. His machines give job to women
To a number of women, his machines are providing jobs and income. His effort has also motivated other entrepreneurs to enter this arena, and the inception of innovative ideas like to use waste banana fiber or bamboo for the purpose. He is now a well known social entrepreneur.
12. Awards and accolades
He has addressed institutions including IIT Bombay, IIM Ahmedabad and Bangalore and Harvard. He has also appeared in TED talk. His name has been featured in TIME magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World, 2014. Muruganantham has also been honored with Padma Shri by the Government of India.