Director- Shree Narayan Singh
Starring- Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar
After exhausting most causes of friction in a love story - social status, different career choices or personalities, director Shree Narayan Singh has come up with a rather interesting antagonist - Toilet in and as Toilet - Ek Prem Katha. Toilet here is only symbolic to the mindset of conservative and corrupt political officials.
It’s a great idea to build a love story to address a social issue but one can’t help but notice the political agenda behind a film like this. Too many references to Swachh Bharat, the Prime Minister of the country and even demonetisation make you question the real intention of the film.
The first half of the film as most Hindi films, celebrates a stalker of a lover, who sneakily takes pictures of the lady he loves, making her feel uncomfortable. What’s even more appalling was to see the audience reel in laughter when the heroine is teased in the film. That is the irony of our lives; when Keshav (Akshay Kumar) does it on screen, we find it funny, and when it adds to the rape culture of our country, when a roadside Romeo teases women in our families, it becomes a tragedy. The heroine Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar) finally calls the bad behavior out, alas, only to fall in love with him the next moment. Wow that makes so much sense!
The second half of the film brings the real issue. The village is rightly called ‘Mandgaon’ where people fear change and support defecating in the open in fields in name of tradition. In the process, the film throws sarkar and sanskriti in lazy collages without actually delving into the history of the no-toilet-at-home tradition or fleshing out details of government scams. The ending is both hasty and unconvincing. The old fashioned women of the village suddenly have a change of heart. They abruptly support Jaya in her mission and cause a revolution. Even the patriarchal father comes around rather rapidly. He had to. After all they had to end the film.
The movie is also a bundle of contradictions. On one hand, it stands up for women and their rights. There is a dialogue when Keshav (Akshay Kumar) says aurat dhoti hain kya jo main use sambhalu, a sharp attack at this stupid notion of controlling your wife. On the other, it makes rather distasteful jokes at women. A husband hoping his wife to fall in gutter or dialogues like bhabhi jawaan ho gayi, doodh ki dookan ho gayi are both forced and unfunny.
The film however packs some very convincing performances. Akshay is pretty much at home territory playing the crass, crude village boy. His bachche ki jaan lega casual dialogue delivery works for a character like Keshav. Though he doesn’t look anywhere close to 36 as suggested in the film, he definitely looks convincing in an emotional scene where he helplessly breaks down in front of his family.
Bhumi Pednekar is such a refreshing change in fashion parade of ornamental Bollywood beauties! She owns the lines, gets the dialect right and delivers a cocker of a performance.
Sudhir Pandey and Divyendu Sharma as Keshav’s stubborn father and dutiful brother are good too. Ayesha Raza Mishra, our Indu chachi from Dil Dhadakne Do makes for a convincing Brajbhashi mother. Her body language and her dialogue delivery, show her stupendous range as an actor.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha might have sounded great on paper, but loses impact in its telling. The film gets way too loopy and indulgent that I actually heard someone say ‘What crap man!’ aptly summing up a film called Toilet.