There are only so many ways to say toilet in Hindi, but editor-director Shree Narayan Singh’s film Toilet Ek Prem Katha based on a script by Siddharth-Garima includes almost all of them. Inspired by a true story, ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ explores the issues of open defecation and lack of privacy for women (and men) to relief themselves, besides the associated evils (eg disease, lack of safety etc). The story plays out in the homes of Keshav (Akshay Kumar) and Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar).
After years of believing he would never be married because he is manglik and because his father, a staunchly orthodox priest, believes that Keshav can only marry a woman with an extra thumb on one hand, Keshav finally meets Jaya. It’s love at first sight – outside a train’s toilet. From then on Keshav first stalks her and then wins her over with a declaration of his actual progressive attitude. The well educated, independent spirited Jaya is impressed and they decide to con his father into accepting their match. In all this Jaya is unaware that Keshav’s home does not have a toilet. Having always had a toilet in her home, Jaya refuses to join the ‘lota party’ of local women who venture into the fields in the darkness to relieve themselves.
Jaya leaves Keshav, refusing to return to him until he builds a toilet for her. This becomes Keshav’s mission and in the process not only does he take on the local leaders, his father and the bureaucracy, along with Jaya’s help, he also begins to change mindsets. Till such time as humour and romance are used to push along the story, it’s tolerable. But as we get into a preachy second half, the story becomes boring and too much of a public service message. Every issue and hurdle comes in the way, even the media and courts are involved. And then suddenly people just change their minds and see Keshav and Jaya’s point of view.
Kumar takes on the role with gusto, even though it’s hard to accept that he’s a young 36 years old! He vibes well with Divyendu Sharma who plays his younger brother. Sudhir Pandey is perfectly cast as the father. Pednekar is likeable. As editor as well as director, Singh should have controlled the narrative and dispensed with some of the themes to make this a more impactful film rather than a propaganda delivery vehicle.
While on the one hand the script doesn’t degenerate to toilet humour, it does have lots of jokes referencing toilets and what goes on inside them. However, when the humour is set aside and the message (Swachh Bharat campaign) becomes the sole motive, the movie loses its charm and entertainment value.
Also Watch: Public Review Of Toilet Ek Prem Katha