By Atika Ahmad Farooqui | August 11th, 2017
India leads the world in open defecation. 34 percent of entire India and 52 percent of rural India still does not have a toilet at home. Getting light outside one’s house is a part of daily living and people are okay with it. Toilet Ek Prem Katha takes a successful dig at this phenomenal problem that lets India down at various International platforms.
The real India lives in its small cities and the stories, colors, characters that inhabit this world are way more attractive than the ones in big cities. Toilet Ek Prem Katha celebrates small town life, romance, problems, ‘jugads’ and the simplicity of it’s biggest problems.
And when it comes to portraying such Desi characters on screen with the regional linguistic flavor, Akshay Kumar always takes the cake. His candor, easy gait, slyly articulated romantic dialogues and his cheesy comedy always makes one remember their childhood and small town memories.
Toilet ek Prem Katha is a treat for Akshay Kumar fans but a careless mix of drama and a preachy, predictable government sponsored awareness campaign.
The film as we know is inspired by true events and many news stories that we read. Women are leaving their husbands’ homes in absence of the basic facility and right to dignity. A topper in college in Mathura district does the same after many failed attempts to convince her husband for the humble necessity which he thought was a rude demand.
In the first half while our heart beats for the characters, pains for their longing of a toilet, moves with the husband while he takes help of the many jugads so that his wife does not have to go with a lota in the bushes, but in the second half what the film turns into is an uninteresting documentation of the government’s efforts to provide people with a cubicle either at home or in the same village.
Film starts with a colorful premise of a small town life. Son of a cycle dealer is way past his age and like it still happens in small towns, he gets married to a cow to get rid of a ‘dosh’ in his kundli. I was reminded of Mathura where my father was once posted. The lathmar holi, simple living and traditions being the driving force of all living things is a predominant feature in Northern India. The local language, very well captured by the characters and the simple funny conversations that may sound irrelevant to big city people draws us in this setting.
Akshay Kumar is convincing and quite likeable in the role of a 36 year old who is longing to be with a woman but father would have his own way even if the marriage gets delayed by a decade. He successfully portrays a picture of an ideal husband by telling the menfolk of India that it’s okay to be dominated by your wife especially if she makes a right point. You can’t help but fall in love with Keshav and of course his constant chanting of Radhey Radhey and one liners so hilariously delivered. He has an author backed role here and he shines, right till the end.
Jaya played by Bhoomi looks every bit of a small town girl with an authentic north Indian accent and girl next door looks. But in the process of giving Akshay the cake of a performance here her role is under written and often keeps her from making the right moves in order to make the husband’s character shine further.
What I enjoyed most were the hilarious dialogues by Siddharth Garima and brilliantly delivered by the entire cast. When Akshay was building a toilet in his house, the mason exclaimed, “Upar se Khula Chod dun? Akshay refuses, then mason says, “bhaiyya, Anarkali to na Chunwa re tum iske andar”. He was alien to the concept of a closed toilet. In another scene Akshay was hounded by local Tv media, they ask him, “Kya aapko is baat ka dukh hai ki apki lugai ne Chod diya hai aapko?, Akshay says, “Naji hamein to majaa aa riya hai”. In a scene where both are going to get divorced, Akshay says Itne log to Shadi me bhi na aye they jitne Talaq me aa gaye.
If nothing works for you, the dialogues sure will.
First half is full of small town innocence, desi romance and good humor but second half is mostly contrived and unnatural.
Director Shree Narayan Singh had already bitten more than he can chew and finds forged ways to bail himself and the characters out of the situation. Characters behave opposite of the way they were written and the climax was sudden and jerky which included the sudden transformation of Keshav’s father played by Sudhir Pandey.
Also the reaction of Jaya’s family over her decision to seek divorce was unnatural and makes you wonder if it can be true. It could have been saved by intelligent writing.
In the second half, the film turns into a public awareness campaign which educates its viewers on what, why, when and how much has been done by the government for this cause which falls under the larger campaign of Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan. We thought we were watching a feature film but the plain lackluster writing turns into an awareness campaign.
Toilet Ek Prem Katha has a beautiful heart which honestly tries to make a genuine point in an entertaining way but a half baked second half reduces it to an incomplete experience. At the same time, must say that Akshay’s fans and lovers of desi comedy will applaud this one.