Sugandha Sehgal (M.Phil, M.A, English, University of Delhi) is currently teaching as Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi. She is a registered Ph.D. scholar in the Department of Visual studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University and her areas of interest include Visual Culture and Gender Studies.
This paper uses Julia Kristeva”s theoretical conceptualization of abjection to critically engage with the depiction of the abject and unclean female body in three contemporary cinematic texts: Padman (2018), Period. End of Sentence (2018) and Toilet Ek Prem Katha (2017) Using a larger critical framework of official WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) discourse and MHM (Menstrual Health Management) literature, the paper argues that the aforementioned films though credited with bringing the issues of menstruation and open defecation into the public sphere remain at best sanitation narratives. All the three films discussed here share an overemphasis on the assumed dirt and lack of cleanliness of the rural female body subject that must be trained and disciplined into proper hygiene habits. As important popular cultural texts, the paper attempts to read these films within a larger theoretical feminist framework of women’s abject bodies and the discourse on hygiene. This paper concludes that the female body with its with its disruptive biological functions such as menstruation, child birth and lactation is essentially deemed an abject body that makes it a locus of both official discourse and popular cultural representations.
Keywords: Abjection, WASH, dirt, hygiene, menstrual body, sanitation, waste, cleanliness, MHM.
Of Female Bodies, Abjection and Hygiene: An Introduction
Abjection is sickness at one’s own body, at the body beyond the “clean and proper thing…” Abjection is the result of recognizing that the body is more than, in excess of “the clean and the proper. (Elizabeth Grosz, qtd. in Covino 17)
The centrality of an essentially unclean female body, a body that is “in excess of the clean and the proper” (Grosz 194) runs common in the three cinematic texts this paper takes up for study. Out of these three, two films, Padman (2018) and Period. End of Sentence (2018) deal with the menstruating body and locate it in a larger official discourse on menstrual health and hygiene. The third text Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017) (henceforth TEPK) though not explicitly about the same subject shares a common concern with the hygienic management of the female body. The paper frames the discussion of the aforementioned films within a larger theoretical conceptualization of the abject body, as provided in Julia Kristeva”s Power of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1980). Kristeva”s formulation of abjection is used to argue that the female body with its with its unruly biological functions such as menstruation, child birth, lactation etc.[i] and its troublesome fluids is essentially deemed an abject body that makes it a locus of an official discourse on hygiene and sanitation.
Further, it is argued that though these films do important discursive work in bringing out tabooed subjects of rural India such as menstruation and open defecation in the mainstream public sphere but they remain severely limited in their treatment of the female body as a body in hygiene crisis. Also, at best these films remain cast in a sanitized mode of representation carefully avoiding any distasteful references to the corporeal functions of the female body. In all three texts, the crisis of sanitation and hygiene is played out on the abject female body. In the engagement with these aforementioned cinematic narratives, the paper also borrows from the works of Lahiri Dutt (2014) and Caroline Sweetman (2017) to better understand the nuances and gendered complexities of the female body and the larger WASH discourse,[ii] constituting the master narrative on women”s bodies and hygiene.
The epigraph to the paper points towards the framing of abjection as an involuntary disgust at the body with all its fluids and secretions[iii] that threatens to spill over the “clean and proper thing” (ibid). The female body with its menstrual and excremental functions then becomes the epitome of abjection, a body that exceeds the boundaries of “the proper and the clean” (ibid). This section begins by charting out the field of official discourses on gender, women and sanitation as encapsulated in WASH discourse in order to better engage with the subject of the unclean female body in the aforementioned texts. It can be argued that the three films examined in this paper are best described as sanitation narratives in their single-minded preoccupation with the proper and hygienic management of an essentially unclean female body.
There is a need to critically engage with official discourse on the subject of women’s bodies and sanitation, as encapsulated in WASH literature in order to better understand the gendered complexities involved in the treatment of the subject of the female body in the same. WASH is defined as “the collective term for water, sanitation and hygiene...due to their interdependent nature, these three core issues are grouped together to represent a growing sector. While each a separate field of work, each is dependent on the presence of the other.” (UNICEF WASH)[iv] Free access to water, toilets and promotion of good hygiene practices fall under the infrastructural initiatives undertaken under WASH sector. MHM, implying Menstrual Heath and Hygiene is a term originating in the WASH sector. The UNICEF guidelines on MHM (Menstrual Health Management) describe it as “the management of hygiene associated with the menstrual process.” (2019)[v] In both MHM and WASH literature, it is the body of the young female subject that is overemphasized as the locus of discourse on hygiene. There is clearly an implicit recognition of the greater “sanitation needs”[vi] of the female body throughout the body of WASH literature.
Caroline Sweetman in her work “Introduction: Gender, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene” focuses on “WASH from the perspective of gender justice and women”s rights” (153). Offering a gendered analysis of the WASH sector, Sweetman draws attention towards the “different sanitation needs of women” (ibid). She writes, “menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause all create needs for water and sanitation that are specific to women and these specifically female body functions create hygiene and health problems that can affect women.” (ibid) The centrality of women”s bodies in official WASH literature is thus clearly evident.
Sweetman”s observation may be used as a starting point for locating the discussion on the sanitary needs and requirements of the female body that menstruates, gives birth, lactates and defecates. Sanitation and hygiene become even more urgent concerns in the context of the female body and its functions. Of the three texts chosen for analysis here, two deal with the hygienic management of the menstruating body, a body that also becomes a chief developmental priority of the MHM sub sector (menstrual health and hygiene management) of WASH sector, bodies that as Lahiri Dutt argues need “WASH-ing the blood of menstruation” ( 1) Dutt writes, “women”s use of water differs from men in essentially one aspect: in cleansing the body of menstrual blood” (ibid). Does menstruation make the female body perhaps a body more in need of a hygiene discourse than the male body? Kelly Oliver also draws attention towards the relatively cleaner male bodies, as “bodies, that unlike women”s bodies are clean and have proper boundaries” ( 131). The female body with its menstruating and lactating functions is essentially an open body that does not respect proper boundaries.
The symbolism of water as a cleansing agent in the larger discourse on female hygiene is hard to miss in the third film as well. The narrative of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha revolves around the rural female subject”s right to hygiene, proper water supply and the privacy of an enclosed bathroom. The defining poster for the film TEPK depicts a cohort of rural women walking down to the open fields with a pitcher of water in their hands called the lota. The lota can be read as a synecdoche for the unhygienic female rural subject in TEPK. The poster further reads “the lota party is coming your way” thereby conflating the defecating bodies of these women with the lota party, a loose consortium of rural women who go to the open fields to relieve themselves. A fresh supply of running water and the privacy and dignity of an enclosed bathroom are the basic infrastructural needs of rural women that the film foregrounds.
Pallavi Rao draws attention towards the gendered emphasis of the treatment of the subject of open defecation in rural India, its framing as a female problem in TEPK (2019) The film casts WASH and its policies and needs as a “question of gender justice and women”s rights” (ibid). Also, the film, remains a significant popular cultural text intrinsically tied to the larger nationalist, BJP led agenda of “Swachch Bharat” (Clean India)[vii] The word “Swachch” is a culturally loaded concept implying clean having connotative associations with the word “dirt.” What does the word and concept of “Swachch” entail specifically in the context of the rural female body? One wonders why the narrative focus of the film remains exclusively on the rural female body, the site of irresolvable cultural tensions centered on female modesty, honor and shame. Why does the film leave out of frame the male rural body? It is possible to argue that all the three films chosen here become apt case studies for a gendered analysis of an official hygiene discourse centered on the unsanitary bodily practices of the rural female subject.
Another interesting binary common to all three films is that between the rural/urban female body subjects. It is the “sanitization of the female body of the rural poor” (Dutt 1) that forms the chief concern of both the menstrual narratives, Padman (2018) and Period. End of Sentence (2018). The urban, relatively cleaner sanitary product using female subject (the character of Pari in Padman) is set in contrast with the unhygienic body of the rural female subject. Dutt, writing in a different context, in her discussion of the “narrative of hygiene management” warns of the “false notion that all poor women are by definition deficient in hygienic sense.” (2) It is indeed interesting to critically examine how the rural female body is collectively imagined in official WASH discourse as well as portrayed in popular cinematic representations such as these films. In all three films, we either see the rag using unhygienic bleeding body or the lota carrying openly defecating body of the rural female subject. The rural/urban divide thus runs deeper than its obvious geo political meanings and affects our understandings of un/hygienic bodies of urban and rural women. The urban body with easy access to commercial menstrual absorbents as well as the luxury of fresh water and the privacy of a bathroom is considered better adept at managing the unclean female body and its troublesome biological functions than its rural counterpart.
It is imperative at this point in the study to briefly examine Kristeva”s conceptualization of abjection before offering critical analysis of the aforementioned films. Kristeva cites “food loathing” as the more “archaic form of abjection” (2). Citing the example of the thin skin that forms on the surface of the milk, which upon touching our lips causes an involuntary “gagging sensation in the stomach.” We immediately withdraw in disgust from any form of abjection such as vomit, pus, decay, infection, the corpse or the skin on the milk. The abject in Kristeva”s formulation is “not lack of cleanliness or health” but that which “disturbs identity, system, order...what does not respect border, positions and rules.” (ibid) The abject is disturbing because it confuses the boundaries between inside and outside. Iris Young, citing Kristeva”s argues that “the horror of abjection has two paradigms: the excremental and the menstrual” (109). I find Young”s observation useful in my attempt to read all three cinematic narratives as attempts to sanitize the abject, excremental and menstrual body of the rural female subject. As an abject body, the female body in Kristeva”s formulation is essentially a body that “disrupts boundaries” and “categories” (ibid). Kristeva further writes, “excrement and its equivalents such as decay and infection stand for the danger to identity that comes from without. Menstrual blood, on the contrary, stands for the danger issuing from within the identity” (71). I use Kristeva”s twin paradigmatic model of abjection to argue that the female body with its excremental and menstrual waste is an abject body par excellence. It is this abject female body that becomes the center of both official hygiene discourse as well as the narrative locus of the aforementioned films.
Three Sanitation Narratives: An Analysis
This section shall offer a critical analysis of the three films as significant popular cultural interventions in the larger debates on the female body, hygiene and sanitation. Padman released on 9th February 2018, starring Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor in the lead roles is a biopic based on the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man associated with the sanitary napkin revolution in rural India back in the nineties. Muruganantham, a Coimbatore based school dropout is credited with the invention of a low cost sanitary napkin making machine that ensured that cheap and affordable pads reached women in rural India.[viii] Directed by R.Balki and co-produced by Twinkle Khanna, a self-professed feminist and columnist, also wife to the Bollywood superstar Kumar, the film casts the story of Muruganantham”s success in the mold of an entertainment blockbuster.[ix] The plot simply speaking involves the trials and tribulations encountered by Lakshmi Prasad, the protagonist modeled on Muruganantham”s character, as he sets out on a quest (much like the shining knight in armor?) to understand the periodic pain and discomfort faced by his wife, the humble Gayatri, played by Radhika Apte. Facing ostracization and social condemnation from family and community alike, Prasad relentlessly pursues his search for cheap and affordable menstrual absorbents for usage by rural women. The urban, sophisticated character of Pari, played by Sonam Kapoor a perfect foil to the ignorant rural female subject helps Prasad in his journey. The narrative in its delineation of the padman”s heroic journey also offers a powerful sub text challenging menstrual stigma in rural India.
In a nutshell, Padman is a story that belongs to the man behind the sanitary napkin making machine. It is Lakshmi Prasad”s story, of his personal struggle and his entrepreneurial journey as he goes on to become the renowned padman of the film. I argue that the cinematic focus of the film clearly remains on the padman, the pad making machine and the pad. In fact the title clearly foregrounds the menstrual pad and the padman as the twin heroic protagonists of Balki”s film. Interestingly, the posters of the film also foreground the figure of the eponymous padman, showing a larger-than-life figure of Akshay Kumar, dressed in pristine white, standing amidst bulbs of white cotton. I find the visual grammar of the film”s posters to be very clinical, as made evident in the foregrounding of the color white. The posters clearly foreground the cinematic focus of Balki”s film on menstrual hygiene practices, thus marking the film within a broader, official MHM frame. (Bobel 6) [x] Also in all the posters we see the menstrual man wearing a benevolent smile on his face. This benevolence is a marker of a newfound form of heroic masculinity, which is best described as a form of “maternal masculinity” (Singh 119). This is the man who will wear an animal bladder and carry animal blood to feel what a menstruating woman feels. All of these acts of a rarely found benevolent and empathetic masculinity cast the padman in the league of the Western superman. Promotional content of the film marketed the idea of padman as India”s very own indigenous superman. The tagline of the film, American has Superman, Batman and Spiderman...but India has Padman immediately casts it a heroic narrative centered on the figure of the unique s/hero, Lakshmi Prasad.
The women all this while lurk on the margins of the narrative. While Gayatri, the wife is cast in the stereotype of the ignorant rural female subject, one who is complicit in her oppression, Pari, the modern urban female subject exists to add unnecessary romantic melodrama to the film. As a mainstream feature film dealing with the tabooed subject of menstruation in rural India, Padman remains very careful in its delineation of the subject, and tries at best to remain a sanitized intervention in the larger debates. Early responses to the film focused on its watchability as a family film. The film was marketed in away so as to make it least embarrassing as a watching experience for the average middle class Indian viewer despite its difficult subject. The celebratory euphoria surrounding the release of the film was hard to miss as it was marketed as the much-needed movement that would solve the problem of period poverty in rural India. Furthermore, the #padman challenge on social media involving Bollywood celebrities sharing photographs holding a sanitary napkin also created ripples as it sparked debates on the efficacy of the same as a mere publicity gimmick or a revolutionary movement for greater social change.[xi] Though the film did important discursive work in bringing menstrual conversations into the mainstream, it did suffer from serious contradictions in its treatment of the subject.
I argue that despite its celebratory feminist rhetoric, Padman remained at best a sanitation narrative on the menstruating body. Firstly, the film valorized the male protagonist often at the cost of an erasure of female voice and agency in the narrative. Borrowing from Chris Bobel”s critique of official MHM discourse drawing attention towards the problem with what she describes as the “rescue paradigm” (2019, 32) the same conceptualization may be used to describe Padman as a rescue narrative that “directs attention away from the women and instead spotlights the helper.” (ibid) Though the masses loved the film for its clean and sanitized treatment of India”s period problem, critics and feminists were quick to see through the false feminist politics of a film like Padman. The film remained at best an uncritical, populist valorization of an unconventional heroic masculinity. It also showcased the sanitary pad-making machine/man as the ultimate savior that rural women in India need. The machine then becomes a co protagonist sharing the limelight with the hero. In fact, the man becomes the machine and the machine becomes the man.
Furthermore, in the film, it is the sanitary pad that is cast as the ultimate rescue that the unhygienic menstruating body of the rural subject needs. Sinu Joseph in her article “Why India Does not need a sanitary napkin revolution” (2015) draws attention towards our inherent bias towards the “sand-husk-ash-using rural women.” Writing on “menstrual products and rural women”, Joseph’s observation on the “need to raise the standard of conversations around menstruation beyond pads” rings true in the case of both the menstrual narratives discussed here (ibid) [xii]. Both the commercial blockbuster and the documentary posit the commercial sanitary napkin as the revolution that rural women need. With the latest fad of sustainable menstrual products such as tampons, cups and cloth reusables, one wonders why the commercial sanitary napkin is so aggressively championed as the ultimate hygiene technology that the bleeding rural female body needs. Though the film remained problematic on so may grounds, it is still credited still with bringing menstrual conversations into mainstream visual culture, no matter how sanitized and censored the discourse was. The film remained at best what critics called “a public service announcement”[xiii] type of narrative that treated India”s menstrual problem within the overarching framework of gender, development and women”s health. The film resembled an official governmental educational film on sanitary pads but remolded and recast as a mass entertainer with the right dosage of melodrama and romance. I borrow Bobel”s description of an “MHM film” (178) to perhaps best describe the activist potential, if at all any of a Bollywood blockbuster like Padman.
Period .End of Sentence which is a short documentary directed by Rayka Zehtabchi, produced by Sikhya Entertainment was released on Netflix in India on 5th April 2018. The short 26 minutes documentary charts the journey of a small group of rural women living in Hapur, away from the metropolitan heart of Delhi as they take to a new sanitary pad making machine as the road to menstrual hygiene as well as economic empowerment. It is interesting to note that the film was born out of a creative partnership between a group of young students at the Oakwood School, Los Angeles as part of their “Pad Project”, Action India and the director Zehtabchi.[xiv] The money raised by the girls of Oakwood School through bake sales was used to purchase Arunachalam Muruganantham”s cheap sanitary pad making machine and sent to the girls of Hapur. “Ek machine lag rahi hai Kathikera mein”, (there is a machine being sent to your village”) says the voiceover as Muruganantham”s machine is installed in the village. The machine brings the much-needed menstrual revolution in the village as it allows rural women to switch to better, more hygienic menstrual practices as well as empower them through job opportunities. The pads produced are metaphorically called “Fly”, poetically embodying rural women”s dreams and aspirations to rise and shine. In this documentary narrative following the story of a sanitary pad-making machine, the filmmakers also bring to light the deeper socio-cultural tensions, taboos and superstitions surrounding menstruation in rural India.
The noble efforts of this Westerner”s story about the menstruating body of the non- Western “Other” were duly recognized and awarded at the Oscars as the film won the Best Short Documentary award. Though the discursive and ideological work done by the documentary deserves acclaim, I argue that there are some serious problems with it. I attempt to offer an informed critique of the documentary using Chris Bobel”s work on “The Spectacle of the Third World and the Politics of Rescue.” (2019) I borrow Bobel”s use of the term “spectacularization” to argue that Period End of Sentence turns the grinning, rural Indian subject into a spectacle that is consumed by the West. Citing Debord (1968), Bobel quotes, “the spectacle is not a collection of images. Rather it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by the image” (171).
The manner in which Zahtabchi”s documentary spectacularizes the rural Indian subject speaks volumes about the power dynamics between an ignorant South steeped in archaic and unsanitary menstrual practices and an enlightened global North standing for Western modernity. The entire documentary is cast in the frame of “a rescue narrative” (Bobel 199) where the machine (bought by the money raised by noble Westerners) brings the much-needed menstrual revolution in backward, unhygienic poor India. The Westerners are depicted as “saviors of brown girls in the Global South” as they solve the “problem of backward menstrual care” in rural India using the right technology and the right product (ibid). I argue that both Padman and Period. End of Sentence share an overemphasis on the savior trope often at the cost of an erasure of the female menstruating subject. In the former, it is the unique figure of the padman and in the latter the benevolent Westerner cast in the trope of the rescuer that enjoys the cinematic focus.
Furthermore, the portrayal of young, rural women in India remains problematic in the documentary as they are rendered as mute subjects, humble receivers of Western philanthropic menstrual modernity. One is surprised by the number of cinematic shots in Zahtabchi”s documentary that simply depict young girls giggling before the camera or as Bobel rightly argues “grinning for the camera” (178). Their responses to the documentary makers questions such as what is a period or have [you] heard about the pad are at best muffled, inarticulate responses structured by shame and silence. The gaze of the Western documentary makers freezes these young rural women in the stereotype of the backward and ignorant third world girl who must be rescued by the enlightened filmmakers/padmakers of the West. I find the treatment of the subject condescending as the documentary frames the problem of menstrual management as a third world issue.
The film is also marked by a conspicuous absence of the female voice as the young rural girls featured remain at best a demographic profile, the ignorant, unhygienic rural subject at the receiving end of Western modernity equated with the right menstrual hygiene products. Much like Padman, I find the overemphasis on “the -pad -as -the -solution narrative” problematic. Lahiri Dutt observes that “a medical discourse of cleanliness delegitimizes the use of traditional, alternative means of managing menstruation” and posits the sanitary pad as the “only means of living clean and hygienic lives” (5). I conclude that the documentary, much like the mainstream feature film discussed before portrays the menstruating body of the rural female subject as an unsanitary and unhygienic body that must be disciplined and trained into proper habits of hygiene.
The third cinematic text discussed in this paper TEPK does not deal with the subject of the menstrual body but shares a common concern with the representational politics of the female body with the previously discussed films. In a nutshell, TEPK is a story about a provincial man whose wife leaves him because there is no toilet in the house and returns for a romantic reunion only after the hero has built one in the courtyard of his father”s brahmanical house. This is a unique love story (prem katha) structured on the premise of a toilet in the house. As a mainstream commercial film starring Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar, TEPK was an instant success at the office. Directed by Narayan Singh, the film was released on 11th August 2017 (four days before Independence day) with an interesting tagline “Swachch Azadi” (Clean Independence). The ideological affiliation of the film with the larger, nationalist, BJP led agenda of “Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan” is hard to miss. The film was lauded for its efforts to initiate dialogue on the problem of open defecation in rural India.
Pallavi Rao observes that the film “framed the issue of open defecation significantly through its focus on gender” (83). She further adds that the film “framed the issue as a critical issue for women”s rights” (83). One wonders why a film on the social issue of the health perils of open defecation should exclusively focus on the female body with a total exclusion of the male body. The film right from its opening shot depicting a group of women walking down the open fields with lotas in their hands is single mindedly focused on the hygiene politics of the female body. The opening shot is framed as a “lota party” sequence showing rural women cracking jokes and laughing as they walk down the fields to defecate in the open. Early morning daybreak, the lotas, the uplifted sarees and the open fields constitute the cinematic focus of this shot. The revolution begins with one woman, the protagonist of the film played by Bhumi Pednekar who refuses to compromise her dignity by defecating in the open. The plot revolves around her revolt, aided by her modern and progressive Brahmanical husband who fights against tradition to construct a toilet in the same courtyard that houses the holy tulsi plant. Overall, it seems to be a well-intentioned film with a clear propagandist message against the perils of open defecation in rural India.
However, a closer critical analysis reveals that much like Padman and Period. End of Sentence, TEPK is also centered excessively on the site of the female body as a locus of hygiene and sanitation. Why are we only talking about the body of the rural female subject in this larger nationalist gung-ho about cleanliness and “swachchta” (cleanliness)? The unhygienic practices of the lota carrying female rural body become the focus of the film’s narrative, all this while leaving out of frame the bodily practices of the male rural subject. By framing the issue as a gendered phenomenon, the focus clearly shifts from the corporeality of the act of open defecation to the threat posed by the abject female body to social and symbolic order. I conclude this discussion with Dutt”s observation on the “differing water and sanitation needs of women” (2) in the context of the film. Does the body of the female rural subject defecating in the open pose a greater threat to social and health order because it is both an excremental and a menstrual body? (Kristeva 71). Does this make the female body doubly abject, and hence more in need of proper hygiene, something that a pitcher full of water (the lota) cannot take care of?
This paper has attempted to offer a critical reading of three recent cinematic texts as sanitation narratives that remain excessively concerned about the proper management of the unclean female body. Using the three texts as case studies, this paper places the discussion within a larger theoretical feminist framework of women”s abject bodies and the discourse on hygiene. One wonders if the female body is more in need of a discourse on hygiene because as Elizabeth Grosz argues “women are somehow more corporeal, more biological and more natural than men?” (14). Popular cultural conceptualizations of female embodiment as found in the aforementioned cinematic narratives compel the reader to rethink the compulsory logic of women”s association with a troublesome corporeality.
[i] Sweetman, Caroline and Louise Medland in “Introduction: Gender, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene” (2017) draw attention towards the “specifically female bodily functions that create health and hygiene problems.” (p. 154)
[ii] WASH is an acronym standing for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, an official sector catering to the infrastructural needs for water, toilets and proper hygiene habits. This is also discussed in greater detail later in the paper.
[iii] For more on the troublesome fluids of the female body such as menstrual blood and/or breast milk, see Elizabeth Grosz” discussion on “Powers and Dangers: Body Fluids” (p.192) in Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism. (1994)
[iv] I borrow the official definition from the UNICEF webpage. For more see, “https://www.unicef.org/wash/3942_3952.htm
[v] For more on menstrual health and hygiene, see Guidance on Menstrual Health and Hygiene. UNICEF, March 2019, First Edition, Programmer Division/WASH.
[vi] I borrow the phrase “sanitation needs” from Sweetman. (2017)
[vii] Swaccha Bharat Mission or the Clean India Mission was a countrywide campaign initiated by the Government of India in 2014 to eliminate open defecation and improve solid waste management. See https://swachhbharatmission.gov.in/sbmcms/index.htm
[viii] For more on Muruganantham”s story, see https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26260978 and https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blchangemakers/period-story-how-padman-muruganantham-arunachalam-scripted-a-hygiene-revolution/article31020852.ece
[ix]Interestingly, Twinkle Khanna”s book The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad (2016) also contains a short story on the padman fable titled “The Sanitary Man of Sacred Land.” The film Padman is based out of this story.
[x] Chris Bobel in her recent work offers an informed critique of the official MHM framework. (2019) Writing on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), Bobel argues that originating from the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) developmental sector, MHM animates a number of NGOs and social enterprises focused on providing menstrual care prodcuts, water and hygiene related infrastructure. ( 2019, 6)
[xi] For more on the challenge, see https://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/bollywood/padman-challenge-deepika-padukone-arjun-kapoor-ayushmann-khurrana-pose-with-a-sanitary-pad-5050762/
[xii] Josehp’s blog can be accessed here : https://swarajyamag.com/culture/why-india-doesnt-need-the-sanitary-napkin-revolution/
[xiii] I borrow the phrase from https://www.filmcompanion.in/reviews/bollywood-review/pad-man-movie-review-red-alert.
[xiii] For more on the Pad Project, see https://charactersonthecouch.com/film/period-end-of-sentence-helps-girls-rise-and-fly-out-of-shame/.
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