Phullu, a movie directed by newbie Abhishek Saxena was recently given an ‘A’ certificate by the censor board. This movie is an attempt to spread awareness about the problems that women face during menstruation, and the lack of hygienic options like sanitary napkins for most women in India. Pahlaj Nihalani made the following statement to defend the certification-
According to him, there are two domains in India (we are as baffled as you are!)
“The one in the metropolises and the other in smaller cities and villages. In the non-metropolitan parts of India, there is still a purdah over certain facts of life. When we certify films, we have to be sensitive towards that ‘other’ India, which doesn’t exist in the metros.”
He uses the term ‘purdah’ very wisely, because the stigma surrounding menstruation resembles the social evil that used to be the ‘purdah system’, which involved women wearing veils that covered their faces in front of elders. While we managed to oust that system, Nihalani seems to advocate the continuance of this obfuscation of the truth of menstruation. What good is the propagation of this shrouding, this silence surrounding the subject? It requires proclamation rather than veiling. It needs to be known and understood.
“It may be a subject that needs to be addressed to younger audiences. But in our society, we still do not talk about ‘that time of the month’ with our daughters. Mothers keep their discomfort during ‘that’ time a secret from the family and a daughter, when going through ‘that time of the month’ is not allowed to go to school during those difficult 3-4 days.”
Nihalani does not even mention the word ‘menstruation’. He employs a euphemism every single time he has to mention it. We wonder why a grown, urban man is unable to mention a simple, biological phenomenon. Euphemizing menstruation only reveals the discomfort he has with it – it shows how he is trying to push it back to the dark hut that women are sent to during ‘that time of the month’. The silence that answers any questions about this, the whispers that seek to fill gaps in knowledge, the lies that are told in order to avoid the discomfort of explaining menstruation is unnecessary. It is a very natural thing which has been rendered unpalatable simply because society at large thinks it revolting.
“Phullu’s poster shows a man lying down on a sanitary pad. Why should a man be happy posturing like that? It’s vulgar.”
In this last quote Nihalani reveals the dank, narrow corridors of his closed mind. The objection to a ‘man’ being comfortable with posturing on a sanitary napkin like that is vastly clear. There would have been no qualms about women keeping this issue to their own domain. If a ‘Women-only’ certification existed, he would have loved to give it to this film.
He has some very clearly drawn boundaries in his mind about what is right for a woman and a man. And it is sacrilege to cross over, ever.
By Halak Pandya.
Halak is an undergraduate student pursuing literature. She aspires to be a writer. Halak also holds a Master Diploma in Bharatnatyam and a Black belt in Taekwondo. She describes herself as a luftmensch.