Director: Shree Narayan Singh
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Divyendu Sharma, Anupam Kher
The importance of cinema is evident when real social topics are told through this medium. The chronic problems of India’s open defecation and lack of toilets have been there for the longest time but somehow, it is proudly ignored by many of us. However, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha boldly sets these issues in front of us so that we can reflect upon ourselves and start changing for a better society.
TEPK is a vital topic and it’s smart to narrate it through a love story angle. It has good moments as well some flaws. But, remember one thing, do watch it for its noble attempt to bravely showcase us the harsh struggles Indian women face every day on the name of culture.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is a love story of Keshav (Akshay Kumar) and Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar). Keshav falls in love with Jaya the moment he sees her. Jaya takes her time but gradually understands the genuine care and love of Keshav. They marry and here comes the real trouble. There’s no toilet in Keshav’s home because as the village believes like many of our rural thinking that defecation should not be done in home because the house needs to be clean. Jaya is a forward thinking girl so she goes back to her parents’ home until Keshav builds a toilet in the house. Further follows the story of what Keshav will do to win Jaya back and how this will bring a radical change in his village, a toilet revolution.
The script of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, written by Siddharth-Garima is comprehensive. From fun elements of a person who wants to marry, the romance between Keshav and Jaya, the real problems unfolding when Jaya has to go in open to defecate, the separation and the final decision to make the change in thinking, are all inclusive in it. The story doesn’t shy away in anything. The ‘Lota Party’ of women who go in early morning for nature’s call, their constant fear of anyone watching, more importance to that ghungat rather than anyone seeing her defecating, these are some of the brutal things happen to women in our country yet they are mostly ignored.
Image Source: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures
Keshav’s so called Jugaad (quick ways to avoid the real problem) so that Jaya doesn’t have to openly defecate are fun as well as smart. The final phase is a bit dramatic but it gives a fitting ending.
Coming to the direction, I felt Shree Narayan Singh should have given more justice to the nobility of the script. The first few minutes of the movie are poorly handled. The scenes are rapidly executed, inhibiting us from connecting with the characters of Keshav and Jaya. The jokes and talks between Keshav and his brother Naru are a bit loud. Once the love story begins, Narayan Singh holds the film very well. It is fun, entertaining and moves the film forward with a right pace. The songs are good and most importantly, are used at right times.
The first half of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is fun. I can’t say the same about the second half. TEPK has a predictable story but that’s not its flaw. Everyone knows what to expect from a film that talks about toilet problems in our country. Shree Narayan Singh drags the latter phase too much. It takes a while before coming to the point but till that time, it’s a bit late. Also, the love story that was there in the first half is majorly absent afterwards. With the exceptions of a couple of scenes, Bhumi’s presence goes missing in later half.
All that’s been said, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha still maintains its effectiveness. The characters of Keshav, Naru, Keshav’s father, Jaya, Sarpanch and the women from their villages impart a very realistic portrayal of rural scenario. The film slaps our stale and senseless thinking about not building the toilets in our homes. One scene when Akshay Kumar outbursts in front of the village about the shameless society we have become and how we misuse the concept of our culture to stop ourselves from changing and growing, is the best one from the movie.
The film tells us that the problem lies in ourselves, simply blaming the government is not going to work. Everyone needs to do its part. That’s how solutions emerge. Do watch for Akshay Kumar’s t-shirts with Nike duplicate Naik and Puma duplicate Uima. It is cleverly used to show the desi flavour.
Khiladi Akshay Kumar is doing many films which are covering the true events of our country. From Airflit to Rustom and now Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, you have to appreciate the choices of his films. TEPK becomes worthy of watch mostly because of him. A very perfect display of a 36 year old man, desperate to marry, Akshay adds massive humor in his character. His begging to his father to find someone for him to marry, his love for Jaya and that cunning smile make up pretty much for the entertainment aspect of TEPK.
The real contribution of Akshay’s performance comes when Jaya leaves him. His slow realization about the persistent problems in our thinking, how to face his father and the villagers and his brave move to bring about the change in the village, even when no one supports him are wonderfully enacted by him. He successfully keeps that troubled face throughout the movie. It shows how difficult it is to face the opposition from your own villagers yet standing tall for the righteousness. Needless to say, his romance with Bhumi is lovely and some desi dialogues which involve ‘Sandaas’ (potty) are hilarious and potently delivered by him.
Bhumi Pednekar also does a fine job as a bold and free girl. Always ready to take on anyone, she looked dynamic. Akshay-Bhumi looked a charming pair on screen. She is confident and rightly so, after the amazing performance in Dum Laga Ke Haisha. The way she criticizes Akshay’s thinking and confronts the women about the wrong happenings on the name of culture is neat.
Divyendu Sharma is a very perfect choice for the supporting role as Naru. His comic timing is well known as ‘Liquid’ in Pyaar Ka Punchnaama and he takes that talent to even higher level in TEPK. Every time Akshay is facing a problem, Divyendu’s humor makes a real good entertainment even in serious situations. He keeps the movie light hearted.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is a good movie based on real social topic of lack of toilets in our country. It is bravely told and makes us think about our misconceptions and how we need to change so that India can become free from open defecation. Akshay Kumar’s strong performance binds the movie very well. The length of TEPK should have been shorter to make it more effective. Watch the film as it covers the vital issue of our country.