Cleanliness is next to Godliness
For the last couple of years the going has been good for the ‘Khiladi’ Akshay Kumar in Bollywood. His choice of films (AIRLIFT, RUSTOM, JOLLY LLB2, BABY) have found resonance with the masses and the discerning (to a lesser extent) even garnering him his first National award. That it has created it’s own share of controversy is another matter. With his latest venture TOILET: EK PREM KATHA he joins hands with ace editor Sree Narayan Singh on a subject of great importance to our country. #OpenDefecation. Understandably expectations are high. Does the film meet them? Read on.
36 year old cycle shop owner Keshav (Akshay Kumar) is desperate to settle down (read get married) but his extremely orthodox family headed by the patriarch, Keshav’s father (Sudhir Pandey) and their age old beliefs are a big hindrance. As luck would have it he falls in love with Jaya (Bhoomi Pednekar) a fairly well educated girl from a neighbouring village and woos her in typical Bollywood style. But their joy is short lived for soon Jaya discovers that her husband’s home does not have a toilet. The young bride gives Keshav an ultimatum – Biwi paas chahiye toh ghar me sandaas chahiye and leaves his house. How Keshav brings her back forms the rest of the narrative.
SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES
The writer duo of Siddharth Singh & Garima Wahal whose claim to fame is the work that they have done for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s hit ventures (GOLIYON KI RAASLEELA RAM-LEELA & BAJIRAO MASTANI) have written this film. Frankly a subject as complex as this required deft handling which is clearly missing. Also that the film unabashedly pays an ode to the beloved #SwachBharatAbhiyaan campaign of our Prime Minister is annoying. Not only is it preachy but seeks to put the onus of tackling this problem on us, the people. There are parts which are actually well done but at over 150 minutes of running time the film seems too long and has too many songs that could have been chopped off.
The music of #ToiletEkPremKatha is scored by Vickey Prasad, Manas-Shikhar, Sachet-Parampara all newbies and inspite of a couple of them being rendered with great earnestness by singer Sonu Nigam they are far from impressive. At best they are average and that is about it. The DOP Anshuman Mahaley who showed great promise in Jolly LLB, GIPPI is all right here. Shree Narayan Singh who is an ace editor himself gets a tad self indulgent with his directorial debut.
The film is salvaged to a great extent by it’s performances. Veteran actor Sudhir Pandey is excellent as the regressive minded patriarch who is outraged at the very thought of having a toilet in the same vicinity as the #Tulsi plant (that is worshipped by Hindus) Divyendu Sharma who showed some promise in his debut film #PYAARKAPUNCHNAMA is very likeable as Akshay Kumar’s younger brother here. Another person who lives up to the promise of her first film is actress #BhumiPednekar. Having lost loads of weight and looking quite fetching she is very good as a wife who is unafraid to speak the truth.
The role of Keshav is tailor made for actor #AkshayKumar who exudes just the right amount of sincerity that is required to pull it off. His choice of roles (of late) which seem to suffer from a overdose of patriotism makes one fear he might just be reduced to becoming a poster boy of the current government and TOILET: EK PREM KATHA only reinforces this. One only hopes that the Khiladi Kumar does not yield to this and spoil what is clearly the best phase of his acting career.
Considering that this film is the directorial debut of editor Shree Narayan Singh it is a laudable effort. He has been able to extract good work from his actors and the film does have an important message. What is not laudable but rather worrying is how he has left himself and the film be used as a vehicle to wax eloquent about the present government. There is no attempt to delve deeper into issues like #Casteism in the Hindu community or the shocking practice of #HumanScavenging. Instead a wishy washy solution is provided and the government is absolved of any wrongdoings. Worse the film even sings paeans to #Demonetisation which is hard to digest. And if this film makes big bucks at the box office which seems very likely it might just set an unhealthy trend.
In the end TOILET:EK PREM KATHA is an all right one time watch with enough moments to keep the masses entertained. And it is sure to rake in the moolah. For those expecting a satire or a black comedy (on the lines of a JAANE BHI DO YAARON) this one will disappoint.