Toilet Ek Prem Katha - Review

wogma rating: Even the keen, wait for DVD (?)
quick review:

Brings up many important issues related not just to religion, culture or even sanitation. It points a huge finger at sexism and the politics of both home and nation. But, is extremely preachy through most of it.

Reviews

2595 views

Click on the tabs below for wogma review, external reviews, user reviews, and twitter verdict

Wogma Review

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

Parental Guidance:

  • 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

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

  • Direction: 2.5
  • Story: 3.5
  • Lead Actors: 2.5
  • Character Artists: 2.5
  • Dialogues: 3
  • Screenplay: 1.5
  • Music Director: 1.5
  • Lyrics: 2.5

Toilet Ek Prem Katha - Movie Details

Toilet Ek Prem Katha - Trailer

If you cannot see a video above, click here to see it on YouTube

Comments (3)

Click here for new comment

Fan:

Nice film.

This kind of mass level push is needed to give a boost to the awareness, jagruti, and encouragement in the semi urban and rural areas. Being born and brought up in a city, I take it for granted to have toilets at home. And the lack of it is perceived to be more means related issue. But watching the film I realized that in the rustic regions it is more complex and deep rooted than what we think. When the Prime Minister of more than 1 billion people appeals for making the toilets universally available then we should have realized as to how complex a matter it would be.

More on the film and its social message in a separate post.

Do make it a point to watch it, if possible then on giant screen.

Raj:

I agree, Fan. Even i was not aware that the problem is so grave and so many of villagers don't have their own toilet at home. Also, the religious angle was addition to my knowledge.
Not even once, i lost my interest in movie. The plot is so unusual for our glitzy silverscreen that it was hard to believe that if really a movie by this name has been made.
And.. believe me.. it does full justice to the issue with lot of dignity. Dialogues are so well-written that humour is spread evenly all-over.
Such movies needs to be made and encouraged. Yes the aim of such attempts may not be achieved unless these are PREACHY. I don't understand that why a movie should not be preachy. Preachy or not, but it is 100% entertaining and successful in giving us an idea that how grave the problem is.
No to be missed.. Go and watch on big-screens. You will not be disappointed.

Fan:

Every country has its own DNA, which drives the country. For each social and cultural change to happen successfully this DNA is used as the sole catalytic means. For some countries this DNA may be science, for some economy, for some like India it is religion. Despite the fact that Indian ancestors were scientifically far advanced than their peers, and despite the fact that their observations were empirical and scientific; to bring about a beneficial and perennial change in the society that change had to be packaged in the dominant DNA, in other words religion. One can take any Indian tradition or any act labelled as "superstition " by the intellectuals, and if the real origin is traced via reliable means or authorities then I can be sure that a completely rational and backed by science reason would be found. Over the centuries this reason might no longer be valid, but because the tradition has been woven into the unshakable belief called religion, it is extremely complex to change it. Which brings me to the crux of the film - desecrating in the open. Centuries ago, due to the lack of efficient sewage system, human excretion if accumulated in or near the house would obviously cause serious health concerns, even fatal in those age. But how to educate people on where to desecrate? Use the DNA, wrap it in religion, and people would follow it. Fast forward to 2017. Nowadays sewage systems allow human excretion to be flushed away far from the house in a hygienic way. Thus permitting people to have toilets at home. But as long as we are unable to leave emotions aside and explain this rationally to people who oppose this on cultural grounds, the battle becomes complex. At one point in time in the film the protagonist Jaya says that because she is brought up since birth with the custom of having toilet at home, so it is difficult, even impossible, for her to adjust to life without toilets. In the same token, her father in law has been brought up all throughout his 60 years of age (3 times more than Jaya) with the belief that it's a sin to have toilets at home. Imagine the difficulty that he would have to adjust to having a toilet at home!! As long as we as a society, do not understand this basic concept and do not accept it, there will be confrontation between the old beliefs and the new beliefs. Change MUST come, but with education and not with coercion.

Toilet Ek Prem Katha tries to get some of these messages through in a light hearted simplistic attempt. It is not at all preachy. It seems preachy to the "converted" city slickers like me. Because I know the necessity of having toilet, everything that Keshav says about virtues of toilets would seem preachy to me. But in the less developed areas, where there is nobody to explain this to the people with old beliefs, this important message must be sent. Visual media is very forceful. If an Akshay Kumar advertising a soap or drink could increase the sales of that product, imagine what it could do if the same Akshay Kumar explains the good points of having toilets.

The film is quite long, but it does not get boring at any stage. The affairs are kept light hearted most of the times. The film, evaluated solely on technical aspects as a film is an average fare. Should do a business of 80-90 crores. Even though it is long and the characters are simple, there are many downsides. The biggest for me are the frequent sexual innuendos both explicit and implicit. The entry scene of Akshay Kumar was a major WTF moment. The scene is obscene and totally irrelevant to the film. The characters suddenly having complete change of hearts, looks too filmy. The Akshay Kumar stalking Bhumi is a total no-no in 2017. Several such negative points can be found. But then the strong point in terms of social message, and in terms of strong performances from Akshay and Bhumi (who has given a confident act) far overrides the negative points. Once in a while, there are poignant moments too, like Panditji taking a bath - brilliant.

On the acting front, other than Akshay and Bhumi, Sudhir Pandey and Divyendu Sharma are noteworthy.

Some of the songs, and their picturisations, are very appealing. Special mention to Gori lath maar, and Has mat pagli pyaar ho jayega.

All in all, worthy effort. No cinematic brilliance, but important social pill wrapped in a sweet peda for our less contemporary co-citizens.

Leave a new comment