The decision to write this piece may seem orchestrated because of the recent Bill Gates news (if you don’t know, Bill gates appreciated the movie on Twitter). However, it’s not. I was meaning to write this piece since last week when I got the chance to see it on TV. “Toilet Ek Prem Katha”, directed by Shree Narayan Singh, is an Akshay Kumar/Bhumi Pednekar drama film. It is a satirical comedy that talks about improving sanitation conditions in India, focusing on the eradication of open defecation, especially in rural parts of the country. The movie is inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India Campaign. But, that is not it. The film does more. It shows how illogical superstitious beliefs stop us from walking on the path of progress. It discusses how we, being a male-dominant society, need to come out of our cocoons and understand the real problems of the society.

For me, Bhumi Pednekar is the hero of the film. Bhumi has proven that she is not here to be just a pretty face, canoodling the ‘hero’. She is here to promote relevant content and do roles that matter. Her debut movie, “Dum Laga k Haisha” that spoke about body shaming in this country, was in itself a bold choice – a statement that announced her arrival. She has left no stone unturned to make “Toilet Ek Prem Katha” as convincing and impactful as possible. Bhumi’s character Jaya is strong and non-hesitant when it comes to the duniya kya sochegi (what will people think?) syndrome of the Indian society. What adds to the charm of this character is the flawless writing by Sidhharth and Garima, so hats off to them.

I watched the film and believe that there are some lessons, which every Indian must learn from this movie, like:

  1. Of course, defecating in a maidaan (ground) has nothing to do with sanskaar (tradition). It is plain stupid sitting with a veil covering your while you poop with your bottoms exposed!
  2. Women of this country need to stop condemning women of this country. Metaphorically speaking, by being happy and content in your Lota Party, you are obstructing the path of others who want a toilet.
  3. People need to stop waiting for something to happen. Suicide, rape etc. must not be the reason every time for you to take a stand. Remember the scene where Jaya’s mother says that her husband is neither beating her up nor asking for dowry? Hence her refusal to go back to him is insane! No, it is not. You do not have to wait for dowry torture or domestic violence to take a stand for what you feel. And that is what Jaya did, she did not succumb to her mother’s plea.
  4. In a powerful scene, where Keshav’s Dadi Maa (Grandmother) visits Jaya to give her a scolding and Jaya instead lashes out at the Lotaa Party passing by, speaks a lot. Jaya says that whenever it comes to women, they are sent out. When someone eave teases, we are asked to cover up, when we are on our periods, we are asked out of a temple and when have to defecate we are sent outside the village! Is this what our culture and traditions are about?
  5. Men must respect family values, so should women but when old traditions come in the way of a dignified life, speaking up is not wrong. Keshav (beautifully played by Akshay Kumar) loved Jaya but he did not have the guts to go against his headstrong father and Grandmother. It took him a lot to be able to build a toilet in his house.

So, basically, this movie not only talks about cleaning the surroundings but also about cleansing our mindsets. It promotes sanitation in the country and in the minds of the people. I am grateful to Akshay Kumar for producing a good story and bringing it among audiences. I salute Bhumi for choosing better roles than just being another diva (‘item queen’).

Bhumi, you are more than that and you have proven it. May you keep bringing us stories that matter. Thank you, team “Toilet Ek Prem Katha” for making 2017 relevant and rich.

By Surabhi Pandey

Surabhi Pandey, a former Delhi Doordarshan presenter, is a journalist currently based in Singapore. She is the author of ‘Nascent Wings’ and ‘Saturated Agitation’ and has contributed to over 15 anthologies in English and Hindi in India and Singapore. She writes on topics related to lifestyle and travel and is an active reporter on the tech startup ecosystem in Southeast Asia. She is the editor and founder of The Vent Machine.

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