In the latest edition of our teen movie review series, here is an entertaining film that delivers a strong message. It is about a wife who wants to leave her husband as there is no toilet in his home
By Vanshika Devuni Kalanidhi
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar
Direction: Shree Narayan Singh
When we think of a toilet, most of us take it for granted. We look at it as a basic necessity. A part of our daily life, if you must. It is shocking that over 60 per cent of Indians don’t have a toilet in their home! Open defecation is a serious issue in our country. As much as the film sometimes seems like a promotion of the government’s Swacch Bharath drive, it is to it’s credit that Toilet: Ek Prem Katha sheds light on this problem in an interesting way.
It is the story of how Keshav (Akshay Kumar) and Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar) fall in love, get married and almost immediately are on the verge of a separation after Jaya discovers that Keshav doesn’t have a toilet in his house. Keshav lives in a village where there is no access to bathrooms and women defecate in the fields, late at night. Jaya, who is not used to this practice as she hails from a more developed village with toilets, refuses point-blank to do this.
In the beginning of the film, most parts focus on Keshav’s pursuit of Jaya. He stalks the heroine and takes pictures of her just for fun without her permission and this is problematic. I didn’t like this part of the film as it promotes stalking, that too by the hero. But the rest of the movie makes up for it. How Indians, specially in the villages are given to superstitions and orthodox practices which sometimes threaten their own lives, is captured well in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.
I enjoyed the scenes where the couple has to do all kinds of ‘jugaad’ so that Jaya can have access to a toilet -- by going to a house with a toilet, catching a train and using the toilet there or even stealing a porta-potty from a movie set -- these scenes are funny and bring out the difficulties of not having a bathroom quite aptly.
They discover that a train stops at the village’s station for seven minutes, giving Jaya enough time to do her business. During one such occasion, Jaya gets delayed in getting off the train. This triggers her urge to go back to her own village, where she does not have to struggle for something as basic as a toilet. Jaya only agrees to come back when Keshav decides to builds a toilet for her.
“Build her a Toilet, if not a Taj Mahal” is a really creative line. I like the part where Keshav builds Jaya a toilet and keeps sending her pictures, before it all gets demolished because the villagers and the protagonist’s family believes that one should not poop in the same house as one lives.
However, their attitude towards toilets at home changes after an elderly woman has a fall and is forced to use a facility close to the house. The almost demolished toilets come to her rescue, changing her thought overnight.
At one point, the movie harps continuously on sanskriti (culture) and sanskar (tradition), with the second half becoming quite preachy. However, after some gripping dialogue and protests against the government, the movie ends with public toilets being built all around UP. The film gets a lift because of Akshay and Bhumi’s excellent acting and both have played their part very convincingly. Special credit to Bhumi for that epic scene where she tells the Lota Party (women who go out to defecate in the wilderness) to fight for their rights! This movie has a lot of #GirlPower and #SwachhBharath vibe. The movie is suitable for all ages, although it contains some subtle sexual references and jokes that may be inappropriate for children.
While it is giving a message, it does do that like a boring documentary as it is filled with romance and action. The bond between Keshav and his brother is heartwarming. It has a few songs and dances too. It tells us, city-dwellers how some villagers struggle to use a toilet, in an impactful way. I think everyone will enjoy this movie.
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Vanshika Devuni Kalanidhi