In the year 2015, when the work on the movie “Phullu” began, we had just one thought in mind, we wanted to debut in Bollywood with a movie that could not only entertain but also help save lives. Our objective was to help educate the masses and we saw mainstream cinema as a major influencer. Actor Amir Khan’s show “Satyamev Jayate” served as an inspiration in our journey towards making this film. We pledged a small budget for our movie with the hope that our message will reach every house in India and abroad. All we can say at this point is that we are overwhelmed with the response we have been getting.
When we began conceptualizing the film, we came face to face with various challenges, some of them coming from our friends and colleagues. Most people thought that the topic is good for a documentary but probably won’t work for a feature film. They also felt uncomfortable providing endorsements and sponsorships, as there was fear of being laughed at by their family members. But my faith in the project did not waver. During our research we came across many unsung heroes, working on providing cheap sanitary pads to women in rural India, and that just furthered my belief. These people have been quietly fighting this fight to help save lives and create awareness. If they could take up a fight against the system, I could at least provide them with support through my cinema, even if it came at a cost.
Everyone works for themselves, their families, for their loved ones, but the real challenge comes when we decide to do it for others. This thought and the ability to help others is what makes us human. I am a follower of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who considered all of humanity his family and so investing in “Phullu” emotionally and monetarily, was nothing but a natural process for me. I believe that even if we manage to make one life better, this film will be completely worth the effort.
We wanted our hero to showcase a mirror to the society but also entertain. While shooting for the film in a remote village in U.P., we noticed that women in that village were not using sanitary pads. There were many superstitions involved, and they were reluctant to understand this issue. They didn’t want to talk about it and felt social shame. But after spending time with these women, communication became easier, they became comfortable with the crew. The village women wanted to use sanitary pads but couldn’t because costs were high and access wasn’t easy.
As we wrapped up our shoot, we bought sanitary pads from a nearby town and donated them to these women. And I realized that there is a dire need of a program that would provide these women with sanitary pads or educate them in ways of making hygienic cloth pads. Superstitions like not letting them enter places of worship and the kitchen, or not letting them step out of house during menstrual periods need to be abandoned. There should be a support structure along with access to sanitary pads at schools, so girls don’t miss school during periods.
When we put these limitations on them we make them believe that there is something wrong with menstruation, it’s unnatural and it’s their fault. This deters them from seeking medical attention when needed and lowers their self-esteem, which in turn leads to the creation of mental health issues. There is growing medical data stating that unhygienic menstrual products can lead to infections and can also cause death. We can save those lives by simply providing all menstruating women with hygienic sanitary pads at affordable costs. This is nothing but a human rights issue.