Wednesday, 14 February 2018

In Flesh and Blood - A quick chat with Arunachalam Muruganantham

With a number of questions and controversies surrounding the recent mass Bollywood flick Pad Man, Arunachalam Muruganandham, the man who inspired the bio-pic, answers them all.
Starting from the plagiarism allegation over the Akshay Kumar-starrer to why the film was not made in Tamil first, Muruganandham opened up to me on all the buzz that the movie has created in the recent past.

I met him at the special screening of the movie organised by Sathyabama Institute of Technology, at Sathyam Cinemas in the city on Tuesday. Had a quick 7-minute conversation with him. Here are the excerpts from the interview:

From three consumers in your family to 33 lakh consumers across the globe. What helped you reach this height within 18 years?

It started when I saw my wife struggling with dirty cotton rag and newspapers. But, later, I started to realise that every other woman here has been witnessing similar issues. In the beginning of this century, only 12 per cent of Indian women were using sanitary napkins, which were 40 per cent more expensive than their actual production cost. Now it is only 18 per cent, for which, I can proudly say, my contribution was one of the reasons.

What is the status of Tamilnadu in the usage of sanitary napkins compared to other States of the country?

Tamilnadu is far better compared to other States. As much as 40 to 45 per cent of women in the State are using sanitary napkins. When it comes to States like Odisha, Assam and Bihar, they are not even in a two percent in terms of usage. Also, they go for hazardous methods like using ash, soil or paper, instead of sanitary napkins.

Have you ever felt bad that your bio-pic is being made in Hindi and not in Tamil?

Actually, I see a lot of people raising such questions on social media. It was I who sold the rights to Bollywood, to make my bio-pic. Earlier, I was aiming at Hollywood, but they took a long time to strike the deal, and so I finally chose Hindi cinema to reach a vast audience base – at least within India. It is much-needed awareness, and so, I wanted it to have mass appeal.

There are several biological complications rising from using sanitary napkins. Are they really hazardous?

Yes, whatever napkin products you see in advertisements are totally hazardous as they can lead to serious effects including genital cancer. It is all because of the dioxin content they have.

Do you think women here are aware of these side-effects?

Not at all, they have to be taught about these things. Most women here do not even know that a sanitary napkin should be changed after three to four hours of usage. Otherwise, it will lead to rashes due to imbalance in the pH level of the genital discharge. So, people should be made aware of all technicalities about sanitary napkins.

How far is your product safe? Is it dioxin free?

No, even our product has some amount of dioxin. But, we try to make it as safe as possible. Our product is not so hazardous like other napkins as we make it with more cotton and less chemicals.

What about the plagiarism case filed against Pad Man?

Actually, the whole world knows my story as it has been published in various international and Indian languages. It is already in the public forum and no one can claim ownership over it. So, this case cannot survive in the court.

How much of Muruganandham do you see in Lakshmikant Chauhan? Do you think, this ethnic identity change would make a false interpretation in future?

I gave the rights only after the makers ensured that the movie would be only about pads and nothing else. And, so, I could see 80 per cent of my life and me on screen. The movie also has fewer commercial elements. Showing Muruganandham as a Chauhan is not going to affect or influence history, as people know me very well and my name is already recorded round the globe as Arunachalam Muruganandham, and no one can change that.

- Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, Feb 14, 2018.

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