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Indian men are MCPs in general and their parents are to be blamed: Bhumi Pednekar

Talking about “most Indian men”, Bhumi Pednekar says, “Most of them are MCPs (male chauvinist pigs), and the people that need to blamed are those mothers and fathers who are inculcating these dated, old-school teachings to their sons. How is it OK for you to eve-tease a girl or touch her inappropriately?”

bollywood Updated: Jul 19, 2017 17:44 IST
Bhumi Pednekar,Toilet: Ek Prem Katha,Akshay Kumar
Mumbai: Actress Bhumi Pednekar during a jewellery exhibition in Mumbai onJuly 15, 2017. (Photo: IANS)(IANS)

When she made her film debut in 2015, Bhumi Pednekar was the antithesis of the Bollywood heroine – playing an overweight bride whose husband refuses to accept her and her body type. In her second film, Pednekar plays another newly-wed, but this time she is a feisty woman who leaves her husband after discovering he doesn’t have a toilet in the house.

Bhumi Pednekar during a jewellery exhibition in Mumbai onJuly 15. (IANS)

Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which releases August 11, focuses on a serious problem that plagues millions of Indians. A World Bank report said more than half of Indian households don’t have toilets, which poses countless health and safety hazards. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, acknowledging the seriousness of the issue, launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or Clean India Mission after he came to power in 2014 to modernise sanitation in the country.

Pednekar spoke to Reuters about the film and how it opened her eyes to the issue of open defecation.

Did you find it hard to relate to the issue in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha?
When they (filmmakers) first told me about it, I said, “This is not an urban problem.” But the truth of the matter is, all my life I have seen people squatting beside the railway tracks and doing their business. I remember when the July 26 floods happened in 2005. I was walking back from college and I had shit floating all around me. It is definitely an urban problem. But yes, it is definitely a bigger rural problem. Through the film, we are commenting on the Indian mindset. There is a line in the film where a character says, “Jis ghar mein tulsi hai us ghar mein shauch kaise bana sakte hain?” (How can you build a toilet in your house when you have a “tulsi” plant - which Hindus consider holy).

All these years, I thought this was an issue because the government doesn’t provide enough infrastructure or there is poverty. But the bigger problem is that people don’t believe in using the toilet. They don’t believe that it is a necessity and a right. In 2017, the women of your house need to go and defecate in the open? That is sad.

Bhumi Pednekar during a jewellery exhibition in Mumbai onJuly 15. (IANS)

And it is mostly women who bear the brunt
The men too, but this is harder on women. This film opened my eyes to a lot of things. Fifty-four percent of our country does not have access to bathrooms. Whatever toilets the government has provided, people have turned them into shops or godowns. Fifty percent of rape cases in India happen when women defecate in the open.

Not only is it a health scare, because for 12-14 hours, you’ve controlled yourself, you are not going and relieving yourself from a process that is as natural as breathing… you are working, taking care of the children, sweeping the floor, cooking food, working in farms. And then when you do get a chance to relieve yourself, you don’t have any peace of mind because you don’t know when you’ll be attacked or molested. You don’t know when someone will come take a video or take a picture. And this is such a private act. Even if we have a friend sitting outside the bathroom door, we are uncomfortable. Imagine sharing it with 20 other women. Shooting those scenes were the toughest for me – I just couldn’t get to it, even though I was acting. If it was tough for me, imagine how much we are hurting the self-respect and dignity of women who are actually going through this every day.

Do you think a film like this can help spread awareness about the issue?
Definitely. Films are the largest and most impactful medium. In today’s times, it needs to be entertaining, yes, but if you have a chance of giving a message or changing a mindset, why not? People worship stars, so why not use that to the benefit of our society? Primarily, this is a beautiful love story between Keshav and Jaya. They are simple, straightforward characters, and the villain in their love story is a toilet.

Did you meet the woman on whom this story is based?
This film is not based on a particular story. We have been inspired by all these women and I have read about them in-depth. When you start reading about them, you understand their mindset. It is so difficult for them – it is a violation of their privacy, their health and security. Even otherwise, Indian women are perpetually scared. On the days I don’t have my car and I am coming by cab at 2 am, my mum is up because she is worried. You can belong to any strata of society…

In both your films, you play a woman who is willing to stand up to her family and in-laws, which is very atypical. Is that a conscious decision?
I have been very lucky to get these roles. And these are not women that come from money. They are girls whose fathers probably mortgaged their houses to get them married. And the next day, they have the balls to leave their husband. In that social economic strata, the story of spirit is so high. They are real feminists, they just have not had the chance to act upon what they believe in. Hypothetically, if I am in an unhappy marriage, my parents will not say, “drop it and come back”. For them, it is not easy.

Did you learn anything about the men in these women’s lives?
I already have an opinion about men – not men that belong to this socio-economic strata, but Indian men in general. Most of them are MCPs (male chauvinist pigs), and the people that need to blamed are those mothers and fathers who are inculcating these dated, old-school teachings to their sons. How is it OK for you to eve-tease a girl or touch her inappropriately? Today, because of social media, a lot of these cases are coming out and you understand the hypocrisy of the average Indian male.

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First Published: Jul 19, 2017 14:40 IST