When it comes to taking up issues of social importance in films as well as in real life, actor Akshay Kumar is not the one to shy away.
His films Padman and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha that touched upon issues like sanitary pads and toilets have had a strong impact on the masses and the actor feels the momentum created hereby needs to be carried forward with full zeal.
“I don’t just do such initiatives only when film releases. ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ released in (2017) and Padman in (2018) but I am still going places, touring, talking about it and spreading awareness about the issues,” said the superstar who was in Lucknow to flag off the Rune4Niine initiative on International Women’s Day.
And what makes the actor happy is that the initiatives are now yielding results.
“A lot has changed. At least people are talking about it and no one is ashamed about it. Unfortunately, still only 18-20% women use sanitary pads and its use in rural belt is even lesser. There is still a need to spread awareness. I repeat, what is said in the film too, women strong, sister strong, mother strong, wife strong then only country strong,” he says.
Akshay says both the issues are big. “Be it toilets or sanitary pads, these are biggest problem that women face. And, they don’t need to suppress themselves anymore. I know and sincerely believe that women are much stronger than men.”
Giving an example he says, “In Canada, there was a situation when the wheels of a plane got stuck and it had to make an emergency landing on Lake Ontario. The probability of safe landing was just 20%. However, the pilot made a safe belly landing. When the door was opened the plane was stinking. It was discovered that 80% of males urinated as compared to just 15-20% females. She may be weak physically but her jigra (courage) is much more than males.”
He said the Lucknow was chosen amongst 500 cities for the run that was conducted on Friday, as it was the home state of the Niine Sanitary Napkin makers.
The star admits that he too learnt about importance of sanitary napkins much later in life.
“Honestly, I was stuck in an environment where such things are not discussed. But, my wife (Twinkle) told me about it. Then I realized that there was a need to talk about it and that is when I decided to make the film that was produced by my wife,” he says.
He is making another film where women are in focus.
“I am making a film ‘Mission Mangal’ which is based on women scientists who made IRSO’s mission to Mars possible. Imagine NASA sent satellite to Mars in ₹6,500 core in eighth attempt but ISRO scientists did it in just ₹400 crore that too in first attempt. Even my film 2.0 was made on more budget than it! So, we are full of such stories which need to be told,” he says.
Talking about his upcoming film Kesari he says, “Unfortunately, there is hardly any mention about it in the text books and if one searches on Google 5 greatest battle ever fought then Battle of Saragarhi gets a mention (in which 21 Sikhs fought 10,000 Afghans in 1897). This is why we made this, so that our kids watch the film and understand the courage, valour, strength and discipline Indians have.”
Akshay’s inactivate ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ has yielded results too. “It is one initiative on Government of India’s platform where whatever you donate goes directly to martyrs family (bank account) without any middleman, agency or NGO involvement. Over 600 martyrs’ family have received Rs 15 lakh each under this initiative. I have requested government and union home minister Rajnath Singh has promised to implement it where digyangs (physically challenged) soldiers will also be included in this system,” he says.
Recalling his stay in Lucknow and Mathura he says, “I have spend some good time here during the shoot of Jolly LLB2 and then again during Toilet Ek Prem Katha. People here are very lucky that ‘shahi khana’ (royal food) is served here which we don’t get in Mumbai. I am getting a few things packed which we will savour in the flight. I enjoy shooting here. It’s comfortable shooting here than in Mumbai. I would love to come to shoot here again.”