Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Divyendu Sharma, Anupam Kher
Direction: Shree Narayan Singh
This well-intentioned film is trite, verbose and protracted. ‘Toilet – Ek Prem Katha’ tries too hard to drive home its point – however valid – and in the process spends too much time circumventing the real issue.
A topic such as this one needed dollops of humour to engage the audience, but the excruciatingly lengthy runtime of 155 minutes only serves to the contrary. There was also the need to take a more macro view of the issue. The need for good sanitation is not just a rural requisite – urban women may not have to carry their lotas to the field every morning, but lack of public toilets makes something as pleasurable as urban travelling by road a genuine ordeal for them.
Clean public toilets are almost impossible to find in India, unless you are loaded enough to avail yourself of the facilities of a swank restaurant or mall. I wish the film had at least tried to touch on these issues, instead of wasting so much time on trying to find a jugaad for the newly-wed bride.
Financial and social deterrents notwithstanding, I find it frankly impossible to believe that in this day and age an entire village shuns the idea of a souchalay because their soch is obsolete. The fact that tulsi and toilet cannot co-exist in the same courtyard causes them to oppose the proposition.
It is understandable that absence of proper toilets makes women accept this weird arrangement, but for them to actually stand up and say that they prefer defecating in the open is a bit much. And while it is discomfiting to see their acceptance of this repugnant but sometimes unavoidable practice, their sudden opposition to this way of life (to aid a dramatic climax) is even more jarring.
To make matters worse, the love story between the lead pair comes across as contrived. If you want to pair our 50-year-old hero with a heroine half his age, do so unapologetically – Bollywood does it all the time. Why attempt to provide half-baked justifications for it?
What works for this film is obviously Akshay Kumar and his impeccable comic timing. He manages to engage despite a weak script that crumbles all around him. Bhumi Pednekar is effective when she underplays her part; in her more emphatic bits she is shrill and hysterical.
This film spends too much time discussing an issue with a very myopic view. The search for a plausible solution begins only two hours into the film, after the major part is spent dwelling on temporary workarounds.
Watch this film if you want to see a long promo film for the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’ featuring the very handsome Akshay Kumar. But would you really want to do that?
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