‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ Isn’t ‘Joker’, but a Good Joke

The grapevine has it that Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, is based on the Tamil movie Joker, and that the Bollywood-walas had to pay a hefty sum to the makers of Joker, so they don't raise copyright issues.

'Remakes' don't make it to the awards.

Why Bother?

Firstly, they needn't have bothered. Other than the fact that in both movies, the wife asks for a toilet, there's nothing in common.

Second, I had to watch Joker just to be sure, and I'm still reeling. It will take me a while to watch another movie again, let alone review one. I'd recommend Joker to you, because it's truly brilliant in its simplicity. But it's such a strong dose of reality that I'm not sure I'd be doing you a favour by asking you to watch.

Bollywood Masala Vs Nihilism

Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is an Akshay Kumar romcom.

Its Mandgaon is as authentic as Karan Johar's Chandni Chowk in Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham. Accents are all over the place. Bhumi Padnekar breaks into a mix of Haryanavi and Mumbaiya. Anupam Kher is obviously from some Delhi govt high office. And by God! Only Akshay Kumar is capable of speaking Sanskrit in Punjabi.

It is all without doubt, entertaining. In fact, to roll the reel for 160 minutes on a single premise is no mean feat, and it works. But there's nothing social-awareness-inducing in the movie.

Joker isn’t your average Tamil movie. It works on you at multiple levels. Even the dialogues hide political innuendos that rake up issues that hide in plain sight.

The huts are real, as are the TV serials that play on in 'Amma' TVs and 'Kalaignar' TVs. The movie leaves you with a feeling of nihilism that's hard to shake off. Because murder, police brutality and public apathy, are not spotlighted. Rather, they move along in a matter-of-fact manner. And that's pretty scary.

The Toilet, the Shit and the ShitterThis is icky, but necessary. Ideally, I shouldn’t be posting this caveat, since we’ve all been there, done that.Alert! Descriptive Passage

Have you ever had to answer the call of nature, in nature's lap itself? If you had, you'll know that once you're done with the defecation, you'll need to do a small bounce while squatting, to relieve yourself of anything that's 'sticking behind'. This, and other such simple details are found in Joker, which is only partly about building a toilet.

In Toilet - Ek..., nowhere does the hero ever carry a 'lota' in his hand.

Sanitation is over-simplified to building toilets and ‘teaching’ the villagers how to use them, while including some horribly open brand integration for commodes (western style) and tiles.

It's also made out to be a 'dharmic' problem, while sustainability and economic viability aren't even mentioned.

So in a sense, by not talking about shit in a movie about a toilet, the makers of Toilet are the actual shitters.

Again, 'Toilet...' is mazedaar. It's just not socially relevant.

From the Rim into the Bowl

All the performances in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha were stellar. Special mention to Divyendu Sharma, who plays Akshay Kumar’s brother. He adds comic relief to the film without the crutch of the local accent (which is spot on, btw). The songs are colourful, and when AK gets emotional, and the spit flies into the camera, I felt righteously indignant.

But drone shots aren’t signs of big ideas, and dumbing down the issue of sanitation to a wikipedia search doesn’t make it more accessible to the masses. It’s tantamount to missing the bowl.

Joker digs deep and keeps you hooked in the process. It won the National Award last year (2016).

The only similarity between the two movies, is in the way they end. Joker ends in tragedy and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, in an inspirational high. Both endings are afterthoughts, and sort of pointless.

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