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