Banners: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures,
KriArj Entertainment, Plan C Studios,
Cape Of Good Films
Producers: Aruna Bhatia, Shital Bhatia,
Abundatia, Arjun N Kapoor, Hitesh
Thakkar, Virindrra Arora
Director: Shree Narayan Singh
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar,
Divyendu Sharma, Sudhir Pandey
Anupam Kher, Rajesh Sharma,
Writers: Siddharth Singh, Garima Wahal
Music: Vickey Prasad, Manas-Shikhar,
Time and again, it has been established that if a film has been written well, it cannot go wrong. A strong subject and screenplay will find its mark even if it has not received the treatment it deserves by its director. Conversely, a skillful director can salvage a poorly written film but only to a certain extent. That’s what we get to see while watching Toilet – Ek Prem Katha.
Writers Siddharth Singh and Garima Wahal became names to reckon with after the release of Goliyon Ki Raasleela Raam – Leela (well, they co-wrote the screenplay along with Sanjay Leela Bhansali) and everyone thought that we had found two new talented writers. However, Raabta that released a few weeks ago and now Toilet – Ek Prem Katha are proof that they still need to learn the art of writing, and it’s going to be a long journey. If the screenplay of a film is poor, shoddy dialogue further dilutes the impact of a film. This is very unfortunate that the two writers didn’t work harder on the script, considering just how topical the subject is, with the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan sweeping the country. In fact, it’s almost as if they decided NOT to make any real effort to make this movie a worthwhile watch.
The unusual love story of Toilet – Ek Prem Katha revolves around the theme that is more difficult to change the way we think than it is to move mountains. While doing so, it attempts to shed light on the issue of open defecation and the problems faced by women of rural India because of this.
It is a massive missed opportunity because the 54-per cent Indians who have no toilets to use could have benefitted from the awareness generated by a film that features the likes of Akshay Kumar. Instead, the film fails to create the necessary ripple that a satirical film like this is supposed to. The film does entertain a bit, especially in the first half, but it does not drive home the message.
Toilet – Ek Prem Katha is a dramatised version of the real-life story of Anita Narre, who started a toilet revolution in her village. It opens with Keshav (Akshay Kumar), who is happily breaking up with his girlfriend (guest appearance by Sana Khan) and is about to get married to Mallika. Now let’s get this straight, Mallika is not a beautiful village belle; rather, a buffalo.
Keshav may use the tech trappings of the 21st century but he hails from an extremely conservative Brahmin family and is married to the buffalo to get rid of a dosh. The first few minutes of the film nicely establish the conformist set-up of the story.
In comes Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar), a topper who is the exact opposite of Keshav. She hails from a family whose senior-most member, her uncle (Anupam Kher), is a Sunny Leone fan and is very vocal about it! Keshav bumps into Jaya in the train and falls head-over-heals in love with her. Romance starts brewing and the jugadu Keshav leaves no stone unturned to woo his lady love, including stalking. The couple finally gets married and that’s when the problems begin.
But these are not the usual marital problems that newlywed couples face. The problem here is much more grave – there is no toilet in Keshav’s house and Jaya, like the other women in the village, has to use the open fields to defecate.
Keshav doesn’t really think it is a big deal but, fed up with all his antics so that she can use an indoor toilet, Jaya leaves him and goes back to her house. This is when the film finally gains some momentum as Keshav goes all out – from trying to change the mindset of his father (Sudhir Pandey) to build a toilet in the house to fighting with the government to hasten the procedure of building common toilets.
While the first half of the film has an overdose of romance, the second half gets preachy. It seems the message that the film intends to send out gets lost between the two halves. The narrative has a good dose of humor and romance, and also a social message, but director Shree Narayan Singh fails to weave it all together in an engaging format (thanks to the two writers of this movie). The film is so poorly written that towards the end one fails to feel any empathy for the central characters.
Even though this is his first film as a director, Shree Narayan Singh manages to impress in a few scenes which have been handled very well, but he is handicapped by a poor screenplay. Music is another drawback of the film. Cinematography is fine. Editing is loose and the run-time is too long. The film could have easily been shortened by 20 minutes.
Performance-wise, Akshay Kumar has definitely stepped out of his comfort zone, and manages to impress with his acting chops. The actor is brilliant and portrays the helplessness of his character very effectively. Bhumi Pednekar impresses as the feisty Jaya. Sudhir Pandey as Keshav’s father is excellent. Divyendu Sharma irritates as he is very loud. Anupam Kher leaves an impact even in his small role. Rajesh Sharma is good. Shubha Khote is all right. The rest of the cast supports well. Production design by Udai Prakash Singh is noteworthy.