Pad Man’s Akshay Kumar: “I don’t want to be just another famous actor who died of old age”

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Akshay Kumar has gone through multiple transitions on his climb to the top.
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The actor is known for his comedic roles, but now he is trying something new.
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“Pad Man” tackles the true story of a man who helped bring affordable sanitary pads to women across India.
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The film talks openly about the importance of ensuring women have access to hygiene products.
Updated 08 February 2018
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Pad Man’s Akshay Kumar: “I don’t want to be just another famous actor who died of old age”

DUBAI: Akshay Kumar has gone through multiple transitions on his climb to becoming one of the top-three grossing stars in Bollywood history. Starting his career as an action star, and then finding even more success with comedy, Kumar now aspires for something greater with his work.
With his recent films “Airlift” (2016) and “Toilet” (2017), Kumar has highlighted social issues and important moments in India’s recent past. While those films found considerable success, his new film “Pad Man” seems poised to surpass them both, tackling the true story of a man who helped bring affordable sanitary pads to women across India.
What caused this change? “Because with power comes great responsibility,” Kumar tells Arab News. “I want to not only entertain people, but I want to help create the change that’s needed in our country. I have a platform, now I want to do good with it.”
Now 50-years-old, Kumar reflects more often on his potential legacy.
“I don’t want to be just another famous actor who died of old age. I want to be someone who made a difference and left a mark in people’s hearts.”
Early in his career, he admits to me, this was not the case.
“If I were to be honest, earlier the greed was for money.”
Since Kumar has made the shift towards trying to effect social change, acting fulfills him in a far different way than it did then.
““In fact, it’s even more than before now. Now that I think I have enough and more, there’s been a shift in greed for doing more fulfilling work — work that will speak for itself, work that will entertain, work that will be etched in people’s memory.”
Who is the ‘Pad Man?’
In 2012, Kumar’s wife Twinkle Khanna wrote a book called “The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad,” which featured a short story based on the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who has been called a “superhero” for his role in improving menstrual hygiene across India. Muruganantham, who Kumar says is a wonderful man, “went to the ends of the earth to provide an affordable sanitary pad for his wife to make her life better, more comfortable and disease free, even though the pursuit cost him his marriage.
“I was incredibly intrigued by his story,” Kumar says, “which I think stands as the first reaction for the majority of people who hear about this film — purely because of the strong subject line, the issues and taboos relating to menstrual hygiene and the shocking data I was exposed to which just appalled me. I was so taken in by his story that I was onboard even before the script of Pad Man was written.”
Kumar wanted the film to be as palatable as possible for general audiences, something he credits the creative team for achieving.
“(I didn’t change) much really. The writers and director have done a great job with the script. Our only concern was to ensure and make a film that in no way makes anyone feel gross or uncomfortable. Yes, the subject is considered a taboo, but with all the trailers and songs by the time the audience reaches the theatres, they know what they are coming for.”
Kumar has since developed a personal relationship with Muruganantham, who it has been reported wanted only Kumar for the role.
“Arunachalam Muruganantham has not only got a cracking personality himself, but his story is just so intriguing, you can listen to his thoughts all day, his own one liners are clap-worthy, his opinions and views of seeing things a certain way is so pure and rare. For me he really is a real-life hero,” Kumar says.
With a string of socially-focused films under his belt, Kumar says he is not actively looking for the next.
“I’m not on a cause hunt. It just has so happened that these scripts have come my way and for whatever reasons managed to convince me to be a part of the project. Having said that, if I do get a script which is entertaining, along with highlighting a specific cause, why not.”
In the mean time, Kumar hopes that Pad Man can make a real difference in today’s India.
“If there was one thing that I had the power to change at the snap of my finger, it would definitely be making our country 100 percent sanitary pad wearing country. Hopefully, through this film, and with time, we manage to achieve this feat sooner than later.”


Gaza fisherman battles poverty with plastic-bottle boat

Updated 17 August 2018
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Gaza fisherman battles poverty with plastic-bottle boat

  • A broad slab of wood lashed to the top serves as a seat, allowing Abu Zeid to row a few hundred meters out from shore — far enough to go fishing.
  • Many in Gaza depend on fishing for a living, despite Israel enforcing a fishing zone limited to 9 miles in the south

GAZA: With hundreds of empty plastic bottles collected from the shores of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, fisherman Muath Abu Zeid has turned litter into a floating source of income.

The Palestinian father-of-four used glue and old nets to bind the bottles into a small fishing boat that he hopes will help him support his family.

Simple but effective, the 700-bottle craft is capable of carrying up to eight people out to sea, according to its 35-year-old skipper.

A broad slab of wood lashed to the top serves as a seat, allowing Abu Zeid to row a few hundred meters out from shore — far enough to go fishing.

It takes him about eight hours to pull in between five and seven kg of sardines, mullet and other small fish with his rod.

He sells his catch to passersby on the nearby corniche, making between 20 and 40 shekels ($5-$11) a day. Muath’s two younger brothers — Mohammed, 23, and Ashraf, 20 — accompany him on his daily excursions. Neither were able to find work elsewhere.

“I’m a house painter but because of the difficult situation I’m unemployed,” said skipper Muath, a descendent of refugees from a village near Jaffa in present-day Israel.

“So this boat has been a lifesaver for me and my family.”

Under a crippling Israeli blockade for more than a decade, Gaza suffers 44 percent unemployment, rising to a “staggering” 60 percent amongst the young, according to 2017 World Bank figures.

The coastal enclave’s electricity crisis means sewage is often pumped directly into the sea, leaving its 40-km coastline heavily polluted.

Yet many in Gaza depend on fishing for a living, despite Israel enforcing a fishing zone limited to nine nautical miles in the south of the enclave and just six nautical miles in the north, near Israel. Muath picked up the idea for the boat on YouTube, where he saw hobbyists designing boats using plastic bottles discarded by holidaymakers on beaches.

“I appreciated the idea and said to myself, why not preserve the environment and create a living for me and my family — and that’s what happened,” he said.

The craft cost him about $150, borrowed from his father.

He hopes to buy a fishing net soon, “so that I can pull in larger amounts of fish, sell them and live a decent life”.

The craft is fragile and he’s hemmed in by the frontier with neighboring Egypt, but he says the waters along the border have plenty of fish waiting to be caught.