A retrospective review of the Oscar-winning documentary short on India and menstruation.
I don’t watch many documentaries on Netflix. I believe many other millennials also don’t. However, I still watched Period: End of Sentence for the most millennial reason ever: “hype”.
The film was hyped as it won an Oscar for best short documentary and was based in India. These were enough excuses for me to spend 30 minutes watching this Rayka Zehtabchi directed short feature.
To put it simply, the movie travels across a few North Indian villages and decodes the taboos and stigmatic attitude associated with menstruation prevalent there. There are those typical foreigner-directed Indian film shots like open fields and smiling villagers.
The film shows the sad reality and at the same time, gives optimism with certain figures who are trying to create awareness for menstrual hygiene, workers who are making organic pads in factories and an interview with Arunachalam Muruganantham, the inventor of low-cost sanitary pads (the inspiration behind Akshay Kumar’s Pad Man).
While the fictional Pad Man was preachy and stretched, this movie gets the message straight in its short duration. It shows that the first step towards menstrual hygiene is changing attitudes, simple as that.
The interview snippets feature prude men and women, scared school girls, and unaware boys, talking about periods with a lot of hesitation. In one of the scenes, a teenager is asked if he knows what periods are, he smiles and asks “School wala period?“. Similarly, another girl answers this by saying that it’s a sickness. Such scenes don’t show any triggering material but the attitudes itself make you feel sad about the reality.
When it released on Netflix, I heard many complain about the director’s approach as she covered only certain areas instead of the whole country. I too wished I could see more being explored about this subject but then, I feel even if she covered one village in half an hour, it’s impactful enough.
If she would have brought out many narratives at once in a short format documentary, it might have ended up looking rushed. Instead, Rayka gives us one example and opens our eyes to see how these villages are a mixed bag of orthodox practitioners as well as unorthodox trailblazers. We have a long way to go but there’s still some hope.
Zayka didn’t feature the extremities of menstrual taboos in rural India with women being killed or denied entry in temples for bleeding. Maybe she chose to ignore it or maybe she didn’t know if this at all. In this regard, yes Period still feels like a more Utopian version of the darker truth.
The Oscar win would again help the First World be more aware of such ground realities in India. I hope Zayka or another filmmaker makes a film on urban attitudes around menstruation (as the so-called English speaking elite also is no less with period stigmas) and other trends.
Period: End of Sentence, isn’t the end of all menstrual discrimination but is definitely a great step forward.
Featured Image Credits- Netflix
Shaurya Singh Thapa