Toilet Ek Prem Katha movie review: Akshay fights ‘sabhyata’ in this hilarious but preachy film
Toilet Ek Prem Katha
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar
Director: Shree Narayan Singh
Biwi paas chahiye toh ghar me sandaas chahiye.
With this motto, Akshay Kumar sets out on a mission to hold a mirror to those who support open defecation in the name of age-old traditions and so called Indian culture. Bhumi Pednekar’s idealistic stand on marriage and overflowing love for her husband accompany Akshay Kumar while he takes on the system, society and his own father.
Watch: Our Facebook Live discussion on Toilet Ek Prem Katha
Keshav (Akshay Kumar), the son of a Manusmriti-following brahmin, is waiting to get married for years. Now in his 36th year, he is made to marry a buffalo to neutralise his ‘maanglik’ stars in the opening sequence and you laugh at his pathetic condition. You know how unique can Akshay Kumar be in such scenes. His toothy smile and ‘battameez bol lo madam lekin bhaisaab mat bolo’ kind of dialogues set the mood.
He isn’t your stereotypical village boy who would be a celibate before marriage. Stalking a girl is a way of fetching her attention for Keshav. The proprietor of a cycle store, his general knowledge and understanding of the society and religious texts are also satisfactory. Director Shree Narayan Singh moulds Akshay Kumar into a combination of Jolly LLB 2 and Khiladi 786. In short, Akshay is in comfort zone.
His marriage with Jaya Joshi (Bhumi Pednekar), a state topper and ‘angrezi padhi likhi ladki’, meets a roadblock when Jaya discovers his house doesn’t have a toilet.
She refuses to be the leader of the ‘lota party’ and forces Keshav to go for desperate measures. Obviously they won’t last long and the couple is back to square one. But will the elusive toilet be made in Keshav’s house?
First thing first. Toilet - Ek Prem Katha endorses the Indian government’s Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan so seriously that after a point it starts to look like that Priyanka Bharti ad featuring Vidya Balan.
The idea is to highlight the disadvantages of open defecation through a humorous tale. It happens in the first half with Akshay Kumar and Divyendu Sharma sharing some side-splitting scenes. Their flawed Bundelkhandi accent aside, they show a grip on their comic timing. Their ‘praudh siksha’ (old age education) and Mallika bhabhi (Kumar was first married to a buffalo named Mallika) gags work.
They even try to replicate the Sholay marriage proposal scene in their own way. Some deviations happen in form of Anupam Kher, a Sunny Leone admirer, and chattering housewives of Mandgaon who show a deaf ear to the enormous outcries over not using the open space for defecation.
Jaya also knows her part and gets a hang of the situation before it all goes out of everyone’s hand.
What initially begins as a son-versus-father ideological tussle escalates into a full-fledged war involving the state. We get to know that it’s a scam, but the current government is quite seriously tackling it. Meanwhile Akshay Kumar undergoes a transformation from someone who advises his wife to adjust a bit because it’s been happening for ages to the crusader of women’s rights.
He does it delicately. Before you pin-point flaws in his thought process, he presents a different side of his persona and you keep rooting for him. Bhumi Pednekar, as a feisty wife, provides the support he needs.
The fluid first half hits speedbreakers in the second half, and the prime among them is the theory of ‘fighting with sabhayata (with civility)’ that the director introduces. It widens the canvas and shifts focus to many parties, including the government. Meanwhile, Akshay Kumar keeps repeating how we should not expect the government to do everything for us.
Apart from this confusion, it’s a story that delivers a really important message about personal hygiene and proper sanitation system in rural areas. It’s just that we hear the messages clearly in the first 50 minutes.
Kumar and Pednekar have a chemistry that’s visible in songs, even in the weirdly worded ‘Has mat pagli pyaar ho jayega’. Kumar, of course, is the backbone of Toilet Ek Prem Katha, but Pednekar is no less a contributor to this story.
At 155 minutes, Toilet Ek Prem Katha is just short of becoming another Akshay Kumar masterclass in comedy, but it has enough to entertain you.
Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha