“PadMan,” the R. Balki-directed film stars Sonam Kapoor (right) and Radhika Apte in the female leads and has Akshay Kumar in the title role. Kumar has posted the first looks of both Kapoor and Apte from the film. (Akshay Kumar/Twitter photo)

MUMBAI—Akshay Kumar has opened the publicity innings of wife Twinkle Khanna’s production “PadMan,” based on a real story of a social worker, Arunachalam Muruganantham, the inventor who risked everything to introduce low-cost and easily accessible sanitary napkins for poor women in India and around the world.

Muruganantham dedicated himself to dealing with the massive challenge of women’s hygiene in developing countries, overcoming India’s taboo of discussing menstruation by using himself as a test subject for his sanitary pads, sacrificing his reputation and his family’s respect in the process. But he ultimately prevailed, inventing a cheap mini-machine that can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, and subsidize their distribution across India. In 2014, TIME magazine placed him on its list of 100 Most Influential People in the World.

The R. Balki-directed film stars Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte in the female leads and has music by Amit Trivedi. Kumar has posted the first looks of both Kapoor and Apte on his platform, along with a still of Twinkle, Balki and Muruganantham. Kumar has termed Kapoor the “STRENGTH” behind PadMan and Apte the “REASON” he became the PadMan – the actress plays his wife in the film, slated for release Jan. 26.

Co-star Kapoor tweeted in response: “Such a pleasure working with the indomitable Akshay Kumar. He was the perfect person to play the role of #Padman and has brought a sense of humor and love to the film. Of course, none of these would have been possible without the humble visionary R. Balki.”

In a related exciting development, Hollywood’s Sony Pictures has come in as the global distributor for the film. In a move that lends weight to the welcome trend toward star-driven movies focused on women’s issues, Sony Pictures Entertainment has partnered with Prernaa Arora’s and Arjun Kapoor’s KriArj Entertainment. Sony has committed to handling worldwide distribution for this social film.

Sanford Panitch, President of Sony’s Columbia Pictures division, said of Kumar, “Akshay is that rarest of artists who has found a way to make a wonderfully affecting and heartwarming movie that also can impact social change.”

Vivek Krishnani, managing director of Sony Pictures Entertainment, India, added, “We are indeed excited to partner with Akshay, Mrs. Funnybones Movies and KriArj Entertainment on “PadMan” – it’s a film that’s bound to make every Indian proud because it celebrates a true indigenous inventor and innovator who brought a massive social change.”

Arjun N Kapoor of KriArj Entertainment, summed up, “This film will be path-breaking in more ways than one, and we believe that if there are stories that deserve to be told, this one tops the list. We couldn't have had better creative forces combined than Balki, Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna to portray this extraordinary tale of an ordinary man.”

Kumar and KriArj Entertainment have also had their previous success record with “Rustom” (2016) and “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” (2017).

Interestingly, this is the first true-blue production of Khanna as a producer, after being the face (that is, the billed producer) of some Akshay Kumar home productions like “Action Replayy,” “Khatta Meetha” and “Patiala House.”

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