Toilet- Ek Prem Katha
Director: Shree Narayan Singh
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Sudhir Pandey, Divyendu Sharma, Anupam Kher
Defecating out in the open has been a centuries old practice, especially in rural parts of the country. Leave aside hundreds of hygiene-and- health related problems of this habit and just focus on the simple issue of human dignity, especially for women. Taking inspiration from a real life incident of a newly wedded wife leaving her husband for lack of toilet facility at home, Toilet- Ek Prem Katha comes up with a plot that entertains while enlightening and educating about the evils of this abominable ‘tradition’!
What’s the plot?
A tradition- bound father (Sudhir Pandey) has almost forced his obedient son (Akshay Kumar) into eternal bachelorhood. The staunch traditionalist old man wants a daughter-in-law with a double thumb hand and as she is hard to come by, he also makes his son marry a buffalo to bring about a change in fortune!
Enter a smart, educated young girl (Bhumi Pednekar), coming from a well-placed doting family. The now nearing forty, street-smart bachelor is smitten by the new entrant in his life. He works out the jugaad to somehow first win the girl’s heart and later convince (or rather con!) his quirky father to get married.
Unfortunately the marriage brings a new problem for the guy, as his wife is totally put off by the open defecation practices prevalent in her husband’ place. Joining women villagers going early in the morning for the ‘Lotaa party’ to relieve themselves behind bushes in distant fields is something she is never going to accept! With his headstrong father refusing the very notion of having an in-house toilet, (for he considers it dirty!), the loving hubby finds ingenious ways of providing a makeshift toilet for her wife; but obviously this solution is not going to work for long. The distraught girl leaves the guy and returns to her family, which becomes big news in the region, eliciting an uncomfortable public debate about an uncomfortable public habit! To get his wife back, the husband only has to construct a toilet at his family house but with his father and the whole village turning against him for challenging the age-old ‘toilet in the open’- tradition, he has a huge task at hand!
· Director Shree Narayan Singh makes this message-film into quite an entertainer.
· The first half of the film is a breezy love-story and an eye-opening introduction to the daily horrors of the open defecation practices and the related social attitudes prevalent in rural India.
· Akshay Kumar, the star, should get all the accolades for making a difficult role seem like a fun walk in the park. As a romantic suitor, as a harried son/husband and as an unwitting social crusader, he essays different shades of his rustic character with aplomb.
· Bhumi Pednekar convincingly portrays the spunky new-age daughter of the soil.
· The supporting actors, especially Sudhir Pandey as the dictatorial father and Divyendu Sharma as hero’s loyal sidekick, are impressive.
· The songs are good.
· The film is too long.
· The second half turns melodramatic and preachy.
· A few scenes seem like blatant government propaganda!
· Over the top in many scenes.
How could one make a film using the word ‘Toilet’ in its title and still make a blockbuster out of it? After watching this film, I ended up admiring the courage and conviction of the makers (Akshay Kumar and Neeraj Pandey have produced it!) of the film. It is not a masterpiece by any stretch of imagination, but just to conceive and create such mass entertainer with a strong message about a delicate issue deserves applause.
To deliver such messages to masses, these films do need to use all the PR tricks in the storyline and the film is guilty of that on many occasions. What is undeniable is the way it highlights a social evil that has long been taken as ‘routine’ or ‘tradition’. We may still be a long way away from ‘Swachch Bharat’ but such films will definitely help in changing people’s ‘sh**ty’ mindset in a positive way.