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Kick the butt, dig the pit: Akshay Kumar stars in ads on tobacco use and toilets

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, who starred in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Pad Man, two films with a big social message that matched the entertainment quotient, now fronts public service campaigns shot by R Balki.

bollywood Updated: Apr 30, 2018 16:41 IST
Yashika Mathur
Yashika Mathur
Hindustan Times
Akshay Kumar,Bhumi Pednekar,Toilet Ek Prem Katha
Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar in New Delhi during the promotion of the film Pad Man. (Photo: Sarang Gupta/HT File)

He entertained millions and turned two highly pertinent hygiene issues — open defecation and menstrual hygiene — into talking points across the country. Now Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, the star of last year’s Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and this year’s Pad Man, is fronting two public service ad campaigns: for building low-cost two-pit toilets, and about not wasting money on tobacco and using it to buy sanitary pads for women. Both have been shot by filmmaker R Balki, who also directed Pad Man. And the sanitation campaign features Bhumi Pednekar, the female lead of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. The campaigns are initiatives funded by World Bank, according to Balki.

The spotlight put on open defecation by Bollywood has helped the cause of Swachh Bharat. As per recent data given out by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, some 7 crore toilets have been built in India ever since the Swachh Bharat campaign was launched in late 2014. Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, released close to Independence Day in 2017, is thought to have given an impetus to the drive.

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On the toilet ad campaign, Balki says, “The message is about the most sensible of toilets, which is the two-pit toilet, [first designed] by someone in India, by the person who started Sulabh [public toilets]. Actually, it’s such a simple technology, such an eco-friendly thing. As a culture, we’ve all used this in the past and [now] have forgotten about it. If only the wisdom is communicated to people. I just thought these messages were important.”

Akshay’s wife, writer Twinkle Khanna, too, had posted about the lack of public toilets. Recently, Akshay had a public toilet installed on Juhu Beach, Mumbai, and bore all the expenses.

Bollywood trade analyst Atul Mohan calls it a great move. “It’s a good thing that actors are taking their roles as citizens seriously and not just restricting themselves to a character. Akshay’s involvement with social issues is an inspiration for citizens and, hopefully, it will bring changes for the good,” he said.

Akshay’s no-tobacco campaign will replace the well-known ad currently screened in cinemas, featuring a young man named ‘Mukesh’, whose sorry plight highlights the dangers of a tobacco habit. The ad shot by Balki not only encourages men to kick the butt, but also asks them to spend that money on buying sanitary napkins for women in their family.

Balki says, “What we thought was that everyone was talking about those really morbid ads for no smoking. We made it different. Yes, smoking kills. The money that you’re spending on one cigarette can help someone else. Why kill yourself with that money? Instead, save a woman’s health by buying a sanitary napkin for her.”

Talking about his decision to do these two advertisements, Akshay says, “Shooting for the public service advertisement on Swachh Bharat and menstrual hygiene was very satisfying for me. I myself learned so much about the importance of the two-pit toilet.”

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The actor says that the passion and energy that he put into Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Pad Man couldn’t possibly just end with the films. “They became missions, they became goals, they became objectives towards which I’d keep working,” he adds. “How is it humanly possible to attach and detach [oneself] from a noble cause? This August, it would be a year since Toilet’s release; [and] till date, my chest swells with pride when I read about the lakhs of new toilets that have been built ever since.”

First Published: Apr 30, 2018 16:34 IST