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.”


Russian agency offers fake restaurant reviews ahead of World Cup

Updated 21 May 2018
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Russian agency offers fake restaurant reviews ahead of World Cup

MOSCOW: A Russian marketing agency has offered to help restaurants in cities hosting the football World Cup use fake reviews to bump up ratings on review site TripAdviser, the agency’s owner has confirmed.
Marketing company Bacon Agency says it can circumvent TripAdviser’s algorithm for detecting fraudulent posts and publish reviews in foreign languages ahead of an influx of fans from abroad.
“What can you do if no Serbs and no Swedes have ever been to your venue and left a review?” Bacon Agency asks, in a brochure received by a restaurant in Yekaterinburg, which hosts Egypt and Uruguay in their first-round matches.
“You write it yourself!” the agency says.
For 35,000 roubles ($570), the agency promises a spot in TripAdviser’s top 10 list. “We are offering to help tourists find you, and to leave their money specifically with you,” it writes.
“We oppose any attempt to manipulate a business’ ranking,” TripAdviser said. “Our dedicated investigations team is proactive and extremely effective at catching those trying to solicit fake reviews for money.”
Fake reviews are widespread, but it is unusual for a company involved in the practice to discuss it so openly, or to link it explicitly to a sports event.
The World Cup has created lucrative opportunities for businesses in the 12 host cities hoping to benefit from well-to-do foreign fans at a time when Russians are feeling the pinch from a fragile economy and Western sanctions.
Contacted by Reuters, Bacon Agency confirmed it had offered the service, but said it only wanted to act as the middleman between restaurants and freelancers posting fake reviews.
“We understand that all this is illegal in the sense that TripAdviser is against it,” said Bacon Agency’s owner Roman Baldanov.
“We were just testing this niche, because we see high demand. It’s not because we’re bad guys who came in and said, look, you’ve got to start swindling ... All restaurants know that reviews are ordered, and many use this service,” Baldanov said.
He said nobody had yet taken up his offer. “The response we got was: thanks, but we are already doing this ourselves.”
Reuters tracked restaurants in six World Cup host cities over two months, noting an uptick in suspicious-looking posts.
An event like the World Cup increases incentives to post such reviews, said Stanford University’s Jeff Hancock, an expert in detecting fake reviews.
“Any time you start seeing reviews come in all at once, look sort of similar, have the same kind of language, then alarm bells should start going off,” Hancock said.
At least six restaurants in the TripAdviser top 30 list for Kaliningrad, which will host Croatia and Nigeria, appeared to fit this description.
Peperonchino, a cafe serving Italian cuisine 20 minutes’ drive from the World Cup stadium, used to get around one review a week.
But two weeks ago, reviews began to flood in — 45 in total — the majority from accounts with stock photos, created this year, and rating the cafe five stars. Peperonchino rose from 28th place to 2nd on TripAdviser’s list.
Sister cafe Peperonchino 2 also received a flood of reviews in the past fortnight, also 45 in total, 32 from such accounts.
“All our reviews are real and are left by our customers,” Peperonchino said. “It’s just we have a big loyalty system, a mobile phone app, and so on.”
In a strategy document seen by Reuters, Bacon Agency explains how to avoid detection by TripAdviser.
“The issue is that TripAdviser has developed algorithms which monitor user activity and when they spot an attempt to manipulate the numbers, they sanction the venue,” the agency writes.
To trick the algorithm, fake reviews are published using different IP addresses, devices, browsers and operating systems. Each account has a “back story” of earlier posts.
The reviews will be “full of real details about the menu and decor, as well as ‘real’ photographs, which we will ask you to take.”