By Roli Srivastava and Anuradha Nagaraj
MUMBAI/CHENNAI Feb 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Bollywood's first film on menstrual hygiene, due for release on Friday, has boosted business for entrepreneurs providing affordable sanitary pads to women in India, manufacturers said.
Even the trailer for "Padman" - which depicts one of Hindi cinema's most popular action heroes, Akshay Kumar, wearing a sanitary pad - has generated debate over the taboo subject of menstrual hygiene in India, they said.
"We used to get six to seven calls a day earlier, but now we get around 20 calls from people inquiring about our machines after the "Padman" trailer was released," said Suhani Mohan, co-founder of Saral Designs, a Mumbai-based startup.
"Padman" is inspired by the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who wanted to "please his wife" by replacing her rag cloth with a sanitary pad.
When she said that buying pads would cut into their milk budget, Muruganantham set off on a mission to provide low-cost pads to women across India.
For many Indian women, especially adolescent girls, menstruation is shameful and uncomfortable.
From being barred from religious shrines to dietary restrictions to a lack of toilets and sanitary products, they face many challenges when they have their periods, campaigners say.
One of the machine orders Mohan received was from 52-year-old Sivasankar Ramamoorthy, a resident of the southern city Madurai, about 1,400 km (870 miles) southeast of Mumbai.
"The pads available in the market are very expensive," Ramamoorthy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
"I am doing this for my wife and daughter, and I hope to make pads accessible to more women."
Other manufacturers have improved on Muruganantham's model while keeping costs down.
Subhankar Bhattacharya designed a machine making pads with wings in 2016, based on feedback from rural women and girls around the eastern city of Kolkata.
"We sold four machines in the last two years, but we got 10 orders in the last two months," he said, adding that eight pads sell for 22 Indian rupees ($0.34).
"(The film) is giving a boost to social enterprises."
($1 = 64.2600 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Roli Srivastava @Rolionaroll and Anuradha Nagaraj. Editing by Robert Carmichael and Katy Migiro. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)
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