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Toilet – Ek Prem Katha Review (2017) | Addresses a Major Issue in India

Toilet – Ek Prem Katha is not intelligently built but it tries to address some fuming questions nevertheless. It is manufactured around one of the worst problems that India still faces today, and tries to bring awareness in a way the rustic may understand.

Raising your voice causes repercussions. It is evident from the way the conventional multitude begins to fight our protagonist in the movie. Then there are words, the parochial outlook of people who stand against you when you have something to say. Oh! the things they say don’t even make sense, and yet they say it because that has been the way. The movie captures that in a light of how one would really react to something revolting. Our country is abounding with such idiots and they are getting away with it too.

I am happy that Toilet – Ek Prem Katha tries to change that perception by acknowledging us with men similar in context to Bauji (Sudhir Pandey) or Sarpanch (Rati Shankar Tripathi). I guess it is only fair we see what we have become that we understand our pointless obstinacy that tack against old societal rules.

Sudhir Pandey in Toilet - Ek Prem Katha

Scraping off Conventions

No matter how progressive you call the country, or how much pride you feel swelling up your chest, deep down you know we are still light years away from getting there. We are nowhere there where we ought to be by now. And it’s all because of the little things that hold us down. Scriptures, religion and culture, you name it, they are all well blended in our idiocracy. People of now, they don’t even have to try. They just make sure their thinking stays driven and unfortunately we are all reading the same book without raising a voice. They will be here, even when they are gone. That’s the sad amount we pay for blindness and ignorance.

Toilet Ek Prem Katha tries to address that very issue in a fun light way. It is a satire that tries to bring us up to speed with the many scams India hides in its bosom. It also shows us that the very reason it does so is because of our indifference. We don’t want change. It says loud and clear:

“You can only bring a horse to the water. You can’t force it to drink.”

It also jostles with us head-on with the apparent reasoning that rings in the head of every Indian. It questions our empathy quotient and makes a mockery of it:

“A problem isn’t a problem unless we face the problem ourselves.”

Direction of Toilet – Ek Prem Katha

Unfortunately, the brilliant concept of an issue that still percolates in villages all across the country doesn’t find the director it deserves. We have Shree Narayan Singh directing this flick.

You get the feel of contrivance hitting you in the face right from the very first scene of the movie. Forced laughter, forced energy, and unrealistic reactions are a big bummer. Nothing appears innate and you know at once that it is going to be one of those movies where there’s no serious filmmaking involved.

The director chooses to place the camera right at an angle that shows an apparent cleavage of a dispensable character for cheap thrills. It almost seems the director is trying too hard to get a closure on an unwanted scene when there are plenty of other important scenes worth experiments.

To make matters worse, it is preaching all the wrong things as well. That too in a movie that is trying to address the wrongs? For instance, is it alright to flirt around and be done with it when your parents force someone else down your throat? Then if it weren’t enough, what about all the stalking that happens between Keshav (Akshay Kumar) and Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar), its lead actors? How do you justify it as a right thing to do?

Other Concerns

You get a feeling of being on set at all times, be it be a shoddy scene of Keshav trying to steal the toilet talking loudly right next to a sleeping guard, or the pathetic rain effects, or the easy to make out color layering effects to aggrandize Holi. The filters are an easy make-out which raises questions why it was so hard to walk that extra mile to get the perfect shot.

With the content of the story, you feel that it actually had the potential to become something huge. It is just that it doesn’t find a director like Anurag Kashyap or Tigmanshu Dhulia who have been known to ace India’s rustic scene.

Another concern one might have is about the length of the film. We could have whittled a lot of things out, but the movie chooses to keep all of them intact, raising questions on the editing front as well.

The Chemistry

The movie is trying to sell its story line as a “Prem Katha” (a love story). I believe it isn’t wise to write a story about people who are being treated as heroes and frame them as stalkers that nobody should look up to. The movie does that which could have been a tad acceptable if it were trying to paint things as is. But the absence of reality and the layering up of theatrics make it appear otherwise.

still from Toilet Ek Prem Katha

Toilet – Ek Prem Katha doesn’t feel like a love story at all, when the foundation itself isn’t strong enough. It is not fabricated to appear like a love story when the roots are so weak that it fails to stand on it in the first place.

Although as you move on, plenty of chemistry gets established eventually. In scenes where we see Keshav coming up with insane live hacks to manage around Jaya’s toilet problem, even though hilarious establishes him pretty nicely in the husband shoes. Times he goes out to reach her, to meet her, and to face her without a positive solution are all well taken, and flickers up some genuine concerned vibes.

But all of it disappears somewhere on account of the issue at hand. You sense something really missing in the ways they meet. There is an apparent lack of energy there, that we see taking a promising shape only when the movie songs flare up.

The Drama

Most brilliant lines of the movie get delivered once or twice when the anger meter explodes. It comes from Keshav when his own father drops the villainous bomb by getting the toilet he so diligently and tenaciously built demolished. That shot is one of the best the movie has and lets the actor speak his heart out. All that frustration and pain lingers on his face, and the director chooses not to cut it.

A similar revolting line is given to Jaya too who nails her part when given the opportunity. Sadly the way it is allowed to happen seems really unrealistic. Sadly there aren’t many moments where Bhumi Pednekar’s character is allowed to be as gutsy as it was supposed to be. She becomes meek when it matters the most. She is flamboyant only when the director or the story wants her to be, irrespective of how her character was supposed to be in actuality.

Divyendu Sharma sounds really preachy at times, owing to his crispiness when it comes to enunciating dialogues. Some of them he aces, some of them feel unfunny. It makes you miss the presence of a natural comic like Deepak Dobriyal in such movies.

Sudhir Pandey does a fine job as a recalcitrant father, and so does Rati Shankar Tripathi as Sarpanch. Atul Srivastava and Anupam Kher try to blend in with the flick’s humour and they do a good job too however limited their screen time is. Rajesh Sharma delivers once again with limited lines; his role is more like a cameo.

The Final Verdict

In terms of direction and screenplay Toilet – Ek Prem Katha doesn’t score much, but the issue it tries to scale is worth every applause. To those who don’t really care about the meticulous creation of a film, the movie is a mere “will-do” notion, as it hits just the spot. Its satirical humour and dozen one-liners even though not subtle and cliched, at the end of the day, end up being very effective.

Toilet – Ek Prem Katha does the job, even though it doesn’t do so to make you fall in love with it. It puts its case in a file that is worth giving an eye, and I think that’s where its real strength lies. That being said movies that address issues should be commended for what they are.

There are still many underlying daunting issues that need our immediate attention and despite how mucky or dirty they might sound we need to make the Orthodox aware of what wrongs they have been doing all this time.

A movie not to be missed by the orthodox, if you have a country to change. Make sure your parents watch this. 🙂

Check out other Indian Cinema Reviews as well.

You can check out the trailer of Toilet – Ek Prem Katha here:

Rustom Review (2016) | Enfeebled Courtroom Drama | Celebrates Crime

Rustom is a perfect example of how tawdry cinema gets showcased in India. This is what sells, unfortunately seems to work as well for the Indian multitude.

The problem isn’t with the aspiring filmmakers though; it is with the average Indian mentality. Even though we are sprawled out at ease in 2016, our thoughts are still abounding in the narrowness of our past. We are changing no doubt, but it is more of a scionic change that derives inspiration from time. One’s thoughts, perspective and feelings are forced upon every newborn. The posterity, with the lack of proper healthy unscrupulous environment, learn whatever their ascendants are trying to enforce upon. They reek of their parent’s, and are literally moulded by inbred ideologies. So, whatever we see today we try to weigh it with time, and judge them with our preinstalled memories. That’s the crime we commit – leaving our judgments into the hands of our narrow-minded notions that we still unknowingly judge the world by.

RUSTOM DEBRIEFING

Neeraj Pandey walks in again, this time in a courtroom, with Akshay Kumar in the vanguard as is his constant wont, the face he still encashes upon without batting an eye. Neeraj invariably manages to find the actor in him somehow, and as long as they deliver nobody’s really complaining.

The movie released as part of Plan C Studios is helmed by Dharmendra Suresh Desai (Tinu Suresh Desai). The story of Rustom is inspired by the original 1959 Nanavati case however crashes in with a sub-plot that tries to celebrate the anti-hero primarily to justify murder.

still of Akshay Kumar as Rustom Pavri in Rustom movie

The case that had the nation by its throat finds itself in the spotlight again. It is a sad country we live in. Crimes tend to find poetic justice by the crowd. Criminals are worshipped like Gods as they bend the rules to their will. Courtrooms are akin mockery stages. Judges are like those people on the podium who fail to pacify the crowd despite bestowed with unrivalled power.

One good look at the movie and you will feel how it is nothing but a societal mockery of the Indian Judicial System. Oh wait! We have a living exemplary proof of that too. (Remember Bhai’s hit and run case?) Also, Rustom depicts Journalism in a way it has often worked in reality. This façade of it is abhorrent – trying to manipulate judgments, creating sympathy to save someone by painting its very own picture, inadvertently overlapping its thoughts on others and showing them a falsified misleading direction.

Yet there is a silent theme it gallops along, the one where we are expected to actually feel good for Rustom and Cynthia for making it out unfazed.

MOVIE’S DIRECTION

You have to give it to the director as far as frame-hammering is concerned. He manages to keep it engaging.

Tinu Suresh Desai is ambitious; you could see that from his frames. He occasionally tries to experiment by breaking the usual monotony of Indian Cinema by trying to make a scene fully furbished. Like that interrogation scene where he changed frames incessantly covering subtly and quickly the primal inquisition. Also, when the Prosecution lawyer asks Preety Makhija played by Esha Gupta to calm down and sit, we find her actually sitting in an altered setting – the courtroom. Well thought of, and superbly edited there!

Also, there are minuscule aspects consumed, like a waiting courtroom where close-ups of fans, switches, gavel and door are covered beautifully from various vantages.

Whilst the direction had brilliant frames to show, there were numerous instances wherein enough ideas weren’t spread. Like the insipid build up and revelation of a second sub-plot that went on to create sole doubt in the brains of the Jury. Also, there was no follow-up that went on to show why the Jury system was shut down in India after this unique trial.

HUMOUR IN SOBRIETY

The stratum of prison is no longer demeaning. So Rustom proves by showing an unbothered Kumud Mishra giving mosquito ointment to Usha Nadkarni after she openly involves in an act of irreverence with the Judge. You can’t help but shake your head when you realize Desai found it funny enough to be included.

A guilty man walks out like a king, and the movie still celebrates him overlooking the despicable cold-blooded crime. The tone of the movie, the ‘story-ball’ is deliberately put in the court of Pavri. So that like million others in time, you too appreciate what he got away with. Rustom gives out the message:

“It is alright to kill a bad man.”

When are we going to truly escape this lawless pandemonium?

THE INEFFECTUAL CASTING

Also, Rustom has cheesy lines in profusion which might make you grit your teeth when they fall on your ears. There are some lines that are well executed, like when Akki and Pavan Malhotra play a game of chess in the prison. Others get lost in theatrics. Other important ones find themselves blended in with its lyrics.

My biggest complain however stays with the casting of the movie. Whilst there were actors that sat perfectly in their roles, like that of Kanwaljit Singh, Akshay Kumar, Pavan Malhotra and Parmeet Sethi there were others that didn’t fit the bill at all.

Even though Anang Desai plays a good Judge, he lacks a fuming persona that ends up making his act blunt. Choosing his light mien to judge makes it at once clear how the director wished to take the flick towards a light-hearted juncture.

Brijendra Kala shouldn’t have even been there. He was too overqualified not to get a proper screen time.

Still of Ileana as Cynthia Pavri in Rustom Movie

Ileana tries hard to wash away Cynthia Pavri’s acts with her tears. Vexed under her own guilt and Rustom’s wit, she portrays a character that is annoyingly contrasting. Her cheating act suddenly becomes an act of her helplessness which was obviously not the case at all.

Then we cannot overlook the chemistry section either. There was none. Period. Neither between Cynthia and Rustom or even in that feigned display of lust in the case of Vikram and Cynthia.

The cast made everything animated with their banal acts. It took out its staid naturality from the movie. Little things like the Jury shaking their heads when spoken to insinuated the apparent deficiency of vigour and verve that a court movie calls for.

THE FINAL VERDICT

Rustom ends up being a farce to bluntly put it out there. At the same time it is not really bad if you sunder out the originality and stare it as a separate issue entirely.

Rustom Pavri wasn’t a national hero. But this movie toils hard on making him one. We should not forget that it is just a perspective. A perspective that tries to project Preety Makhija as a rich spoilt brat with an evil sneer and Vikram Makhija as a spoiled horny perpetrator who deserved to die even before he set his eyes on Cynthia. It also tries to, without any justification, blemish the girl who cheated and then revive her at the same time. Above all, it tries to depict Rustom Pavri as a colossal national hero, a guy who murdered a man, a vigilante above the law who preferred calling his own shots to urging our Judiciary system.

Then again, when closely looked at, it isn’t that bad either. Because it touched a sensitive topic, it piggybacked mighty expectations naturally. On comparing it with other mainstream movies that Indian Cinema has been recently celebrating for no reason at all, I would say Rustom stays well above their echelon any day.

Check out the trailer of Rustom movie here:

Airlift Review (2016)

A historical achievement enfeebled by poor film-making! Airlift is mediocre. Period.

Yes, we had a great plot in our baggage. A true story intended to pan out a biopic that could have turned heads, made some noise about the plight of 170000 stuck Indians in a warzone. An immaculate rescue operation that was so colossal that it lodged its name in the Guinness Book of World Records for being one of the largest evacuations of all times.

But what does Menon do with it? He changes facts, people, creates sheer fiction, rules out details, comes with a hand-woven shoddy script to replace the truth, places his own fake characters to enrich melodrama, throws in some songs in there to deliberately connect with the Indian audience, enforces unrealistic patriotism for emphasis, and squeezes in pointless unwanted tantrums to say the least.

SPOILERS AHEAD:

The movie begins by depicting the lavish life of the protagonist whilst noisily pointing out how little Katyal, a big fish in the Kuwait business suburbs, thought of his homeland. He had turned, as suggested by a brayed intentional laugh of his friends, more Kuwaitian than a Kuwaitian himself. These bits again seemed forced rather than appear natural so as to benefit the script.

Chaos depicted by some pathetic CGI bombing, tanks and helicopters raids manifest how little we have progressed in movie making. Third grade young actors chosen here try to scare you with guns and a foreign accent. They fail terribly at it. Their acts were excruciatingly unpromising as they try to kick someone lethargically on the butt, shoot people to nail in absent fear, make advances at young girls, or occasionally stop people for intimidating enquiry. Amidst all the mayhem Akshay Kumar cries which somehow doesn’t blend in with the unconvincing setup. Also, when he runs home to not discover his wife and child, whilst looking unperturbed by the snot lazily hanging from his nose (which seemed a very forceful shot by Menon BTW), really squeezed out acting from him, which pretty soon disappeared in its next impending frames. Menon tries to shoehorn drama in there which seemed more enacted to have ever reached a gut-wrenching point.

What was however quite endearing to watch was how the movie unfurls into better horizons from there as the protagonist starts taking effective measures to get the job done. The way the story oscillates with the ‘how’ is the crux of the flick. It however also tries to milk a character called George, played by Prakash Belawadi, depictive of a head that doesn’t work well with the mass. What it failed to cash on was its moniker. The fact that Air India flew over 488 air planes in a war-hit zone was humongous, but it was vaguely mentioned in a daft line by Akshay. True heroics get overshadowed right there.

After watching this you will miss Neeraj Pandey big time, or even hope the likes of Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee or even the newcomer Neeraj Ghaywan to have picked this up. Airlift failed to engage and rivet us. The music couldn’t captivate us and there was hardly an adrenaline moment to keep our jaws wide open for long. To say that it even came close to the likes of Argo would be downright foolish.

Alas! the damage has been done. What you have is mediocre served on your platter! What could have turned into something phenomenal ends up being an average Indian mainstream movie. It is quite unfortunate that the Indian mass loves this kind of stuff. I would call it nothing but an average crowd entertainer.

Go with lesser expectations and you might enjoy it.