Published On: Sat, Aug 12th, 2017

TOILET EK PREM KATHA : In mission mode

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2017_8$largeimg11_Friday_2017_192434046Nonika Singh

How one feared that this would be no more than an audiovisual requiem for Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan! Surely, Toilet Ek Prem Katha does more to the cause than the television commercial featuring Vidya Balan.

But the film that brings out the problem of open defecation out in the open is much more than a promotional advert.

Yes, as the subtitle says, it’s very much a love story inspired by true events. Set in a small town-like-village in UP where men ride motorbikes, wear fake Rayban glasses, are kicking and alive on Facebook, but have orthodox, almost archaic, views when it comes to  making a toilet in their homes/villages.

But before the film’s real mission can unfurl, there is bitter-sweet love story of Shekhar (Akshay Kumar) and Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar). He falls for her and even though Jaya is cut from a different cloth, what makes her reciprocate his feelings is his earnestness.

Trust Akshay to infuse sincerity and dignity to a character that could well be a caricature. Far removed from our urban sensibilities and far different from the superstar that he is, Akshay makes you care for this reel person Shekhar.

Indeed, it’s not easy to pass off an actor pushing 50 as a lover boy. So he is shown as a rather mature 36-year-old man whose ‘manglik’ status demands a marriage to a buffalo and a wife with two thumbs, a la Hrithik Roshan.

But the real villain in this love story “har love story mein villain toh hona chaaheye” is a genuine problem that plagues a vast majority of India.   Expectedly, love follows a different route and tails a husband’s resolve to first find and then make a toilet for his wife.

But before you dismiss the film as a government mouthpiece on its most publicized programme, well it actually exposes a scam and informs how thousands of crores have been siphoned off in the name of bringing toilets to rural India. Of course, the Prime Minister (no names please) gets a clean chit, rather an emphatic pat on the back and there is even a reference to ‘notebandi’ in glowing terms.

Amidst all this, as the couple’s story threatens to turn into a half-baked revolution, their love shines and sparkles. Bhumi, who has walked the simple rustic path in her first film as well, comes out a ‘toper’ once more. With a desi accent in place, a woman with a heart and a resolve of steel, she is both believable and relatable. Even though modern urban India may not be able to fully comprehend the seriousness of the issue, both Akshay and Bhumi make you feel for them.

Besides, despite the gravity of the problem at hand, the first half packs mirth. With amusing dialogues in tow and a refreshing cameo by Divyendu Sharma as Akshay’s younger brother, the plot gets rolling.

Sure enough a film, that too cause-driven, can’t be without few sermon-laced melodramatic moments and second half does come riding with many in abundance. At more than one point the message becomes louder than the film’s entertainment value.

Still the director does attempt the balancing act and navigates the film through its bumps to finally arrive at the expected finale. But as they say, “all is well that ends well” moreso when the intention too is right from the beginning. If you can ignore the motive to be on the right side of powers that be, the film does power a real cause and brings some genuine emotions on the table.

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