Menstrual Man (2013) Poster

(2013)

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One man's quest to provide more sanitary conditions for Indian women.
prettycleverfilmgal29 April 2013
Amit Virmani's Menstrual Man is an exemplary documentary that explores the hard work and extraordinary vision of A. Muruganantham. A business man and inventor, Muruganantham's story is as empowering as it is unique. He is responsible for creating what he calls a "low cost sanitary pads movement" all over India. Initially shocked that his wife wasn't using sanitary pads during menstruation, Muruganantham soon discovered that in rural areas all over India women were risking severe infections due to social taboos and conservations about wearing pads. Menstrual Man reveals a shocking fact that that 70% of all reproductive diseases in India is caused by poor menstrual hygiene. This lack of knowledge in rural areas is simply because most women are too embarrassed to discuss proper ways of keeping sanitary during their cycles.

Muruganantham decided to test and produce effective sanitary napkins for women unable to receive them from stores. Once his product was created, he took his inventiveness a step further by creating simple machines to manufacture the product. Muruganantham also made the business decision to ship his products to rural areas all over the country and also strictly employ women to handle the creation, distribute, and advertising by raising awareness for the pads in their designated areas. Muruganantham's story is simply riveting. With a docile personality and natural humor, Muruganantham explains how he, an uneducated man who dropped out of school in the 9th grade, went on to become an effective businessman whose dreams of empowering his country through knowledge is becoming a reality.

Virmani captures Muruganantham's story with magnificent dexterity. Complete with stock footage, moving graphs, sweeping facts, and an ever changing aesthetic, Menstrual Man is one of the most compelling documentaries I've ever had the pleasure to watch. Virmani not only focuses on Muruganantham and his humane work ethic, but also how Muruganantham's business has empowered the women who work for him. Menstrual Man's narrative and Virmani's impressive way of telling its story makes for a documentary that's both highly entertaining and extremely enlightening on the cultural issues of rural villages. Muruganantham is a truly inspiring person, and Virmani's film is an exemplary must see Hot Doc.
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7/10
Brave and thought-provoking, this film will draw blood - for all the right reasons.
shawneofthedead16 January 2014
It may be a perfectly ordinary biological process, but menstruation - much like defecation - isn't really deemed to be a fit topic for polite conversation. Isn't it far easier to simply look the other way and avoid discussing any problems or taboos associated with women getting their periods? Men, especially, have been known to be squeamish around the notion that women bleed out, oftentimes quite profusely, for up to a week every month. That makes Menstrual Man - and its director Amit Virmani and his subject Arunachalam Muruganantham - all the more interesting.

In this documentary, Virmani's camera trails after Muruganantham, an uneducated man who - according to the strict definitions of progress and achievement in modern society - should himself have fallen by the wayside. Instead, when he noticed his wife and family members collecting rags to use whenever they got their periods (an unhygienic solution to a monthly problem that could literally claim their lives), he began to think about ways to make sanitary napkins cheaper and more easily available to women in India.

Much of Menstrual Man is concerned with Muruganantham's efforts to devise a sanitary napkin that worked and was cheap to produce. It doesn't sound like it would make for very effective drama, but it actually does. In his lilting, charming way, Muruganantham explains the trouble he suffered to get to where he was determined to go. In the process of gathering data and inventing a new kind of sanitary napkin, he became an outcast in his deeply conservative rural village, losing the respect of men and women alike. Unable to find willing volunteers, he had to come up with ways to test his products himself.

As a result, the film goes far beyond its ostensible premise in depth and breadth, dealing with difficult, conflicting notions of poverty and privilege. Menstrual Man provides fascinating insights into a world it might be hard to believe still exists now - one in which money is so scarce and awareness so lacking that a vast majority of women gamble with their lives every month rather than buy the pads churned out by multi-national corporations the world over. But it also touches on gender inequality, the crippling effects of (over-)education and what one individual can do to make a difference.

Crucially, Virmani ensures that his film doesn't come across as overly preachy - at least in its first half. He peppers proceedings with lighthearted, clever ways of depicting statistics and tradition, via a mix of Indian puppetry, commentary from a stand-up comic and Muruganantham's amusing ideas about grammar and social mores. Towards the end of its relatively brief 60-minute running time, Menstrual Man sheds some of this cheeky humour. It deals with topics no less important, shifting its focus onto the heartbreaking story of one woman whose empowerment comes through working at a factory set up to produce Muruganantham's sanitary pads, but feels - oddly - less accessible thereafter.

Even so, there's no denying the weight and worth of the story being told by Virmani and Muruganantham. Smart and inspirational, funny and enlightening, brave and also a bit silly, Menstrual Man is as much a call to action as it is a documentary about menstruation. If you're lucky enough to watch this film in the comfort of a cinema, it means Muruganantham is unlikely to have changed your world - but he might come within striking distance of changing your worldview.
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