Toilet Ek Prem Katha - Review
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It is not easy. To make a film about a social issue while keeping things light and the smile on. In fact, it is much riskier than make a serious film that takes on a taboo social message. Toilet - Ek Prem Katha is not just about absence of toilets in villages and the relatted sanitation, safety and shame issues. It is about religious superstition, it is about everyday sexism, it is about domestic power dynamics, it is about politics and corruption. And because it is about so many things, it doesn't do justice to most of the issues and leads to a lame, convenient climax while being preachy in bits and spurts, through the film.
The one thing that Toilet - Ek Prem Katha attempts to attack from all angles is sexism. Any Indian woman who has spent a reasonable amount of time with the older generation and/or in rural areas has been told or seen someone being told all of these, “you are the woman, you have to compromise”, “what's the big deal, everyone does it”, “education has corrupted your thoughts/culture”, and so on. From the relatively liberal comes the gem, “a woman is a woman's worst enemy” - there is no response to that, there cannot be. Because, very often, it is true. But, should society get away with saying that?
In that sense, the film feels quite real. Sure, there might not be an Akshay Kumar fighting your cause, but other than that, the lines strike a knowing chord. There's a scene in the film where a woman is being supported by men around her when she is standing up against other women. It made me scoff, “what's the point, she needed a man to protect her.” At the same time, of course, we do need men's support in reel life and real to deal with day-to-day gender-related issues. The problem is, in scenes like these, reality breaks down. Real life doesn't have so much drama. Real life isn't a constant shouting match. Real life doesn't have one scene with all men who are in favour of women's liberalism and another with all against. This is where Toilet - Ek Prem Katha gives way by making the characters or even parts of the screen either black or white.
Sure, they went deeper into the problem and exposed the multiple facets of the problem. When we hear of the toilet situation in India or when we experience it first hand, we think of sanitation, of government mismanagement. We expect and indeed find bureacracy and corruption. But that the slogan, “every house should have a toilet” could be opposed on grounds of personal beliefs is something we completely ignore.
Unfortunately, even though this is hammered down quite fervently, the resolution comes about quite easily. At one point, well past intermission, I was thinking, “oh dear, how are Keshav and Jaya going to get out of this soup, there is hardly an hour left”. But, little did I think they will take the easiest route out. I felt like I was cheated by the writers. And not only because they served me songs instead of story. The film is unevenly paced with a lot happening in the last hour.
Also, it's not like the writers gave me insight or entertainment in terms of dialogue. Save a few here and there, there aren't great quips. There is toilet humor sprinkled around, but it is more matter-of-fact than slapstick. Thank goodness for some mercies. However, there one-too-many speeches that are holier-than-thou monologues. Of course, they become quite exasperating.
It is not that the dialogue delivery is exceptional. It is what one would expect, though I did find Bhumi Pednekar (Jaya) a little too loud when she goes into her activism mode. Akshay Kumar (Keshav) does nothing new, it could be any other film where he isn't an action hero. Sudhir Pandey on the other hand, and Divyendu Sharma bring better relevance to their characters. I also liked Shubha Khote's presence – well, at least until her last scene.
But then, her character as Keshav's grandmother seems back-calculated and forced. Just like the comment on Keshav's sunglasses in a court scene. It is to create a particular situation or for a particular line to be said that Keshav's grandmom exists, and for that matter, the sunglasses. The same goes for Anupam Kher's character, who seems to be always around at the correct time to say the appropriate line. They don't even bother to have him present in the scene, he just enters the scene to say the line, as if he was eavesdropping. This snap in continuity is bothersome because it happens with other characters too, with one aim - to add drama.
I'm unable to reconcile this unevenness in writing. At one hand you have heavy-handed dialogue and shabbily written scenes that focus only on the drama. And on the other hand, you have important issues taken up with reasonable detail. For Toilet - Ek Prem Katha is also a lot about how one segment of society takes the other for granted - be it across the urban/rural, powerful/oppressed, man/woman, educated/uneducated or rich/poor divide. Each of these divides has one party with an upper hand and that party is oblivious to how the other party is thriving. You do see multiple facets being played out. Unfortunately, they are bogged down by their own heavy-handedness.
- meeta, a part of the audience
- Violence: A couple of slaps
- Language: A couple of abusive words
- Nudity & Sexual content: A few dialogues about sex or innuendos. Lechering,
- Concept: A woman refuses to stay with her husband because the husband's house doesn't have a toilet.
- General Look and Feel: Any village of India
Toilet Ek Prem Katha - Movie Details
- Official Sites: Facebook Twitter YouTube Wikipedia IMDB
- Banner: Plan C Studios, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, Kriaj Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., Abundantia Entertainment
- Producer: Vikram Malhotra, Aruna Bhatia, Neeraj Pandey, Shital Bhatia
- Director: Shree Narayan Singh
- Lead Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar
- Supporting Cast: Anupam Kher, Divyendu Sharma, Sana Khan, Sudhir Pandey, Shubha Khote
- Cinematography: Anshuman Mahaley
- Costume Designer: Neelanchal Ghosh, Darshan Jalan
- Facebook Page: Link
- Running time: 145 minutes
- Reviewer: meeta
- Language: Hindi
- Country: India
- Genres: Romance, Social
Toilet Ek Prem Katha - Trailer
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