As weird as the name of the movie sounds, it packs a real punch of a message.
The ‘medium’ of the message for the average village in UP where the story unfolds, may be its non-existent loos, but by the end of the movie the toilet is but a symbol of the masculine tyranny that Indian women are subjected to, that too on a daily basis.
Bhumi Pednekar as Jaya, finally loses all her composure and patience and bursts out at some women on a ‘lota parade’ :
“your lives are trapped in the constricted space of that ‘lota’ and you don’t even realize what you are missing out on! Throw away the lotas and free yourselves; and if you have the courage use that same lota to give your husband water to drink.”
Unlike what we went in the theatre believing, this movie was not a propoganda vehicle at all.
The scenes were very real, very every- day and not over the top at all. If the Director Narayan Singh would have been so inclined he could have added loud and very dramatic elements like assault and rape of girls going out to ‘relieve’ themselves but he sticks to some village men purposely focusing their tractor lights on women sitting ( shitting?) in neat row, their heads still demurely covered with ghunghats, with which they can hide their faces if suddenly exposed to such light or deliberate gaze.
Instead, we have the very awkward scene where Jaya finally relents to ‘going into the field’ to do it, escorted by her hubby, and her father in law, the village Punditji, returning home on the motorbike suddenly sees and recognizes his new bahu. He is more shocked by the encounter than she and looses control of his bike and falls into a hay pit. She is enraged and later at home does not hesitate to shout at him for what she has been reduced to enduring, while he mutters, still petulant ” no one is bothered that I fell on that dirty grass!”
With such comic-tragic incidents the story of Jaya and Kesheo is woven. It may be a film about women’s empowerment, but it is also about the awakening and enlightenment of Akshay Kumar as Kesheo who in the beginning also faults his wife for making such a fuss about a simple thing as ‘shauch’.
“Don’t all the village women do it, and have been doing it for ages?” He questions her.
When he realizes she is serious about not ‘adjusting’ to the situation any more, he thinks of other clever ‘jugads’ like taking her to the village railway station where she can use the train toilet during the train’s 7 minutes halt.
Till one day she cannot alight from the train in time and continues the journey to the next town where her parents live: in a house that has always had a toilet.
“I want no more ‘jugad’ solutions of yours” she tells her husband, “do what is proper and do it openly.”
Jugad is all this village lad has known, from getting married to ‘Malaika’, their buffalo, because he is a Manglik, to getting an artificial second thumb for Jaya, so his father will accept her as the ‘ideal bahu’ to overcome his kundali doshas. Standing up for a cause comes gradually to him till he is fully committed.
This journey of Kesheo’s is what the film is actually about and it is interspersed with many regaling dialogues and banter between characters like Kesheo and his younger brother, Bhoomi’s father and uncle ( the unbeatable Anupam Kher in the role of a lecherous-for-Sunny Leone single old man) and also between the village women.
Every character, fits his/ her role to a T and do a commendable job including the lead pair.
During the year of failure of lack lustre and paper- thin- plot movies like When Harry met Sejal, Jagga Jasoos and Tubelight, albeit shot in many exotic foreign locales, Toilet ek Prem Katha is definitely a winner and will break the commercial jinx of Bollywood too.
Shot on real locations in UP, this movie partly produced by Akshay Kumar himself has been made on a shoe string budget of Rs. 40 crores and is expected to more than cover its investment in the first weekend itself.
If in a metro like Banglore, where I am sure the audience could not identify with most of the rural characters, if the audience could give it a standing ovation, imagine how well it will go down with the rest of the country?
As my techie son in law Kiran who was most reluctant to go for this movie with us ( “I would rather watch a Hollywood movie” he opined) said afterwards “I thought the lack of toilets was a financial constraint, I had never realized it was socio-religious.”
How can one have a toilet in the same courtyard where one worships the Tulsi plant? Asks Punditji.
Go see, how even he is convinced by the end of the 2 and half hours…
We would say seeing this movie is as essential for everyone as going to the toilet!
CAST:Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Divyendu, Sudhir Pandey, Anupam Kher
Direction: Shree Narayan Singh
Our Stars : 4