An Oscar victory is a definite reason to celebrate for the makers of ‘Period. End of Sentence’ — an Indian-set film on menstruation — but it would be a “dream come true” if the government takes it to the grassroot level via educational programmes to schools and colleges.
“After the Oscar win, I’d love the Education Ministry to get involved and take this film from school to school, college to college and have an educational programme... That would be a dream come true, and that is when a shift or change will happen,” producer Guneet Monga said from Los Angeles.
“I think we must try and make that happen... If not now, then when?” asked Monga, who also became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year.
The film’s Oscar win has already caught the attention of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, who has acknowledged its effort to spotlight Hapur’s ‘pad women’, who have gradually learnt to break the stereotype about menstruation. Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi is glad the film talks about how a “period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education”.
In the opening scenes of the 26-minute Netflix film, which won the Best Documentary Short at the 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles on February 24, young girls giggle away, and older ones say, “sharam aati hai [it’s embarrassing],” at the mention of “period”. The scenes show just the grassroot issue around menstrual health that its makers -- and several others -- hope to weed out from the society.
Another attempt to make the discussion around menstrual health mainstream was Akshay Kumar’s ‘Pad Man, inspired by the life of India’s real-life Pad Man Arunachalam Muraganathan, who also features in ‘Period’.
Kumar, his wife Twinkle Khanna as well as a stream of celebrities, including Priyanka Chopra, have come out in support of the film’s Oscar win.
“I’d love all the young actresses Janhvi Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Bhumi Pednekar to champion this film, talk about it, share it, show it, screen it... If we don’t celebrate our own country right now, when will we,” asked Monga, who has earlier backed films such as ‘Masaan’ and ‘The Lunchbox’, under her banner Sikhya Entertainment.
Directed by award-winning Iranian-American filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi, the film is created by The Pad Project, an organisation established by an inspired group of students at the Oakwood School in Los Angeles and their teacher, Melissa Berton, with help from Gauri Chaudhary from Action India.
It follows girls and women in Hapur and their experience with the installation of a pad machine in their village, making them
For Mandakini Kakar, who worked on ground in Hapur to bring alive the stories of reluctant women, there’s a world of difference in the village which she visited two years ago and just 15 days ago.
Sitting in a room in Los Angeles at 2.30am and reflecting on the Oscar victory, Kakar said: “The change has been phenomenal. Those girls there now not only aware about the topic, they are using the pads, they are spreading awareness, they are feeling economically empowered, and they are not afraid anymore.”