Is the #PadManChallenge elitist or plainly ignorant?

Disclaimer: I support the cause of Pad Man, the film, but not the elitist way of dealing with a problem, mostly of the non-elite masses. 

Akshay Kumar is known to do these films backed by a social issue, or those that create awareness about political matters. Be it Special 26, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha or now, Pad Man. And very honestly, I am a fan. I may have not LOVED TEPK to the T cinematically, but what it did or at least wanted to do for the Swach Bharat Abhiyan was tremendous. Surely, the film did not achieve the goals it wanted to, but it did arouse an awareness, if not to build a toilet at home, but at least to use one (in the neighborhood or something).

However, the topic of discussion here is not TEPK, but Akshay Kumar’s next, Pad Man. The film also stars Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte in the lead roles and is releasing this week. Directed by R Balki and conceptualized by Twinkle Khanna, this film is, indeed, going to enjoy the after-effects of TEPK, by bringing about a little change, but is the way the message is being spread, correct?

I mean, my only question is that if someone has the money, education and means to put up a picture with a pad on their Instagram handles, is he/she not aware enough to use a pad? Let me re-frame.

If someone has the money, education and means to USE Instagram, is he/she not aware enough to use a pad?

We live in a country where people are dying of poverty. Their main concern is not a trending hashtag on Instagram but ‘what to do for dinner’?

Again, I am not against the film at all. I will happily go for it, and being the Balki and Khanna fan that I am, will probably love it (conveniently erases Shamitabh from memory). But I am sorry, even though I am privileged, I will not share a #PadManChallenge picture on my social media handles. Why? Because I am not as elitist as you are. Because I am aware that almost half of India’s population is not even aware of your said “trending hashtag”, not because they don’t care about menstrual hygiene, but because they have no access, interest, means and time to waste on the internet. They’d rather come up with a different solution, or do nothing about it. Of course, doing nothing about it is worse than an elitist awareness, but that is not the point here.

I know, Sir, Ma’am, To Whomsoever it may Concern, that you have distributed a certain number of pads to these women and even men in parts of rural India. But you do realize, that is not even half the country; possibly not even 1/4th of our population.

So are you ignorant of these statistics or all you care about is Bollywood actors posting images on social media so that your film is, for the lack of a better word, promoted?

Actors have stepped forward and supported your noble cause, but how noble, after all, is your cause? If Sonam Kapoor or Radhika Apte put up a picture holding a pad, that will cause a change, but how many people have access to that image? On Kapoor’s Instagram alone, 410,216 people have liked her image (as of now). But, how many people have understood what it is? How many women and men are going to bring about the change you suggest? Are you not responsible to answer these questions?

Or, posting a picture was your only responsibility? 

I am aware of the fact that donations are being made to distribute pads to those who cannot afford to buy them, but who is going to make sure that this happens after a week of the film’s release?

There is chaos in the world, and when I say chaos, I mean chaos. Films and other mediums of art have the power to address, if not change, the order of the world, but, my question remains the same, is an elitist program, on a platform available only to the modern elitist, the solution? NO, it’s not.

The only possible solution, is education. When young girls and boys are educated, they begin to understand hygiene; they secure jobs; they earn more money; they spend more; they get trapped in a capitalistic economy, and then these empowered men and women, understand the cause of Pad Man.

Even until then, the #PadManChallenge is not the solution. It is a wonderful, brilliantly sketched means of propaganda, but not the solution…

All in all, I am not telling you to not support the cause but all I ask you is that this is not the end. Sharing an image may not be the solution but it sure is a part of it. It could be the first step but there is a long way to go after it. You need to make people realise what it is that they have to do.

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