Why you should give a shit about Toilet Ek Prem Katha

I must begin with a disclaimer that this is not a totally unbiased review. But then again, which review really is. I suppose when you buy into any review you are first agreeing to buy into the reviewer’s lens of looking at life.
So let me declare upfront that I am a major toilet lover. My said love for toilets has grown to insane levels over the past 2 years, when, as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission team, I spent the better part of my waking hours working on getting toilets to everyone in our country, and getting everyone in our country into toilets. And so, my review of a movie with the word ‘toilet’ in its title is bound to be far from objective.
That said, let us dive in to this (unpaid) advertisement of a review for TEPK.
You must watch Toilet Ek Prem Katha. I won’t even pretend to do a pros and cons analysis here. Except the pros. Pandering to this age of listicles, here is a list of 5 reasons you must watch TEPK:

1. Because Potty Jokes!

When you book a ticket for a movie dealing with a social issue, you pretty much expect humour to have gone down the toilet. Thankfully, when the social issue is toilets, there is always potty humour to the rescue. And TEPK leverages this abundantly.

1

My favorite thing about this movie is that it will go down in history as a comedy film.

It is easy to make a dark and serious film about a dark and serious issue. The makers of TEPK, especially Akshay Kumar, have done a great service to this issue, however, by choosing to tell this story through a mass entertainer. The movie has all the makings of a mainstream Bollywood hit – songs, dances, action, romance, Sunny Leone – but my favourite part is its riotous humour.

Watch TEPK for the stomach ache this movie will give you laughing!

2. Because (Bhumi Pednekar)/2

3

Bhumi Pednekar, or at least what remains of her since we last saw her in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, is awesome. (And I am not just saying this because the lady is my new personal weight loss hero.) What a star she is. Only 2 films old and already lights up the screen every time she is on it. Bhumi will make you fall in love with Jaya – the girl who dared ask for the toilet.

While Jaya falling for her stalker in the first half is no-doubt an opportunity lost for an iconic character (some behavior change needed within Bollywood on that front), my favorite Jaya dialogue in the movie comes after the interval. When asked who she holds responsible for her woes, she does not blame her spineless husband, or her headstrong (and very wrong!) father-in-law, or the villagers who have rallied against toilets because of their reluctance to break old habits. She blames every woman who will step out of the house again, tomorrow morning, lota in hand, to answer nature’s call. Topper Bahu, as she is scornfully called by the villagers who cannot fathom this insane demand of hers, truly essays the role real women of rural India are playing today in the Swachh Bharat movement.

We have all seen and heard enough of the narrative that portrays women as the poor abla naaris who get molested when they go out to defecate and who have to put nature’s call on hold till its dark outside due to a lack of toilets in their homes.

Jaya, and thousands of Jayas of India, have turned that narrative on its head. They play, not silent victims, but leaders in this movement of change. Refer this physically challenged lady sarpanch who made her village ODF, and this pregnant tribal woman who got her hands dirty and built her own toilet instead of waiting for a man to rescue her, and this absolute star of a woman who went to the extent of mortgaging her gold jewelry to get herself and ladies around her a toilet. Poverty, illiteracy, lack of a man’s support – none of these things are stopping these women champions in our country today – a fact that TEPK brings beautifully to light through Jaya.

Watch it for Bhumi. And for all the women she plays.

3. Because Liquid!

4
Fellow fans of Pyaar ka Punchnama (part 1) would feel my enthusiasm for this one.

Sorry, Divyendu Sharma, you are a fine fine actor, but you will always be Liquid to us. Perhaps it is not possible to pay a higher compliment to an actor, than when a character they play becomes their identity to viewers.

Liquid stars in TEPK as, well, Liquid. His name is different, of course, but his character is just as in-your-face hilarious. His comic timing is perfect as always, and his dialogues are pure gold. As a result, not one line delivered by him goes without receiving an uproarious laugh by the audience.

Breakup-Songs-6_zpszb3qeyun

Watch the movie for Liquid Returns, PKP fans, especially those who, like me, jilted PKP2 because how dare they make a sequel without Liquid!

4. Because “Duniya Chali Mars Pe

TEPK is a wonderful mirror to our increasingly sanskaari samaaj, which is turning sanskaari in all the wrong ways. A lovely dialog from the movie is, “Sanskriti ko toh aapne bas Sanskrit bana ke rakh diya hai.”

In a time where the scriptures are quoted to justify the most ridiculous of stances – whether it is open defecation or the efficacy of Hanuman Chalisa in ghost extermination – TEPK depicts hilariously how the reciters of scriptures often bend their interpretations to retrofit them to the mood of the week.

Right from Frame 1, which shows this side-splitting wedding, TEPK never really eases on the satire on our so-called values that are inflicted on an unwilling disadvantaged majority to serve the interests of a handful.

5

Watch TEPK if you think double standards and sheer logic-fails in the name of sanskaars is an insult to both logic and sanskaars.

5. Because Toilets!

Okay I am probably more excited about this last one than you. So let me draw a thoroughly presumptuous character analysis of you based purely on the fact that you are reading this article right now. Which gives me 2 data points about you: You are an English speaker and you have access to an internet connection. Here goes the extrapolation from there:

  • You are a city dweller who has never really known a life without a toilet.
  • You probably think that that one time you had to poop in the open that one time on a trek was an experience of a lifetime.
  • That story is probably your best party story to tell friends over drinks.
  • You will probably be found fondly reminiscing about that experience with your grandkids in a few decades.
  • And you probably think that everyone who does not have access to a toilet is a poor downtrodden person living in abject poverty.
  • You are probably imagining a crying malnutritioned kid with a visible ribcage even as you read this.

So far so correct?

I am sorry if I am wrong here, and even more sorry if, more likely, I am absolutely right and you hate me for it now. But the reason I may be right is that this was also me until I started working with the Swachh Bharat Mission a little under 2 years ago. The reality, as I have discovered now, is really surprising. Here are just some of the fascinating things I have learnt in this time:

Did you know that there is a village in India which is called the chaar choodi gaanv – meaning the four bangles village, a reference to the logo of Audi. Every family in this village owns at least one Audi. And every morning, the family sits in their air-conditioned Audi to drive to the village outskirts to take a dump.

 

Did you know that many families that have toilets use them sparingly, or not at all, out of fear of ‘who will clean it’? It is usually the women of the household who have to maintain a toilet, and often the entire family wistfully imagines the good old days of rampant casteism when certain communities would have done this job without complaint.

 

Did you know that there is a village in Rajasthan where every family owns an average of 13 cars, every house is a multi-storeyed pucca structure with lavish interiors, and yet no house has a toilet?

 

And did you know that many rural men think it is manly to go out for defecation, many women think it is their only time to gossip with their girl friends, and many people find a toilet too constricted when compared to the open air arena where they usually do their business with natural ventilation?

 

At the same time, were you aware that over 1000 children die in our country everyday due to diseases that spread due to open defecation, such as diarrhea? This is equivalent to 2 jumbo jets full of small children crashing every day. Imagine if one such accident actually happened – imagine the hue and cry, the media coverage, the demands for resignations of Ministers. And yet, this happens quietly on a daily basis and we hear nothing about it.

The two points I am trying to make here are that (1) open defecation is a problem that goes beyond just the ickiness of shitting in the open, and (2) that it is not always people who don’t have a choice that practice it. There are many in our country who choose to defecate in the open. TEPK tells us the story of one such family.

And this, to me, is the most important reason you should not only go watch TEPK, but why you should tell all your friends and family to watch it. Send you driver, your housekeeper, your cook to watch the movie with their families – fund their tickets if you have to. Drive business towards this film. Make it a commercial success, so that more mainstream actors and filmmakers start telling such stories, until there are no more stories like this left to tell in our country.

My salute to this film crew and to everyone who buys a TEPK ticket.

Watch it because you give a shit!

Advertisements

HIMMF: Phillauri

HIMMF is a new series of blogposts I am starting today. I have been struggling with the review format for a long time, feeling torn between my (usually) strong opinions on most of the content I consume – books, movies, TV shows, plays – and the knowledge that my opinion barely qualifies as amateur whining of a passive couch potato when compared to the humbling amount of time, effort and creative genius it takes to produce the simplest form of content. And so, more for writing practice than anything, I decided to go ahead with HIMMF – How It Made Me Feel – a series where I will air to the Universe what I felt when I read a book, watched a movie, or ate a shameful amount of ice cream while spending a shameful chunk of my limited time on this planet watching a TV series on Netflix. So here it goes. HIMMF. To whomsoever it may concern.

Phillauri

Phillauri-Full-Hindi-2017-500x500
I had given Phillauri a miss in the theatres when the terrible reviews came out alongside it’s release. But the trailer had definitely piqued my curiosity. So when I saw the movie had released on Hotstar, I made sure we dedicated one lazy Sunday evening to the home screening of the movie. (Shoutout to Airtel for the most amazing 4G network in Delhi – streamed 1.2GBs from my phone where the home wifi and the mandatory middle class JioFi connection failed spectacularly.)
Am I the only sucker who absolutely loved this movie? My Punju DNA and a recent Amritsar visit must’ve added to the effect, but I am also talking about the whole lovers-reuniting-after-a-century theme. Something about it that the hopeless romantic in me completely falls for everytime. It is sad that Bollywood hasn’t got the beyond-lifetimes thing right since Karz (okay may be Om Shanti Om in the middle. And yes, my bar is that low). Until Phillauri, of course.
**SPOILER ALERT
The climax scene when the lead characters reunite over the sea of spirits of the innocents who were mercilessly and needlessly murdered in Jallianwallah Bagh, I must admit I cried like Indian cricket fans across the country did, around the same time last night. Something about that place, that setting, the very real possibility that many such love stories ended abruptly that terrible day, and the thought that if ghosts do exist then there really must be many wandering the Jallianwallah Bagh, waiting for their unfulfilled tasks to achieve fruition, much like the Phillauris. Pass the tissues, please.
 SPOILER ENDS**
Another angle in the movie that I am an absolute sucker for – the strong female character. I am talking about Shashi, of course, and not the mopey bride-to-be who admittedly shows some decent strength herself, within the limited confines of her I-exist-to-get-married-to-my-highschool-sweetheart life frame. But Shashi, what a character! What a wonderful portrayal by Anushka Sharma, of a female artist and the pointless shit they had to face in the simple act of creating their art back in the day. (Thank God we have moved past this shit now.) And the role of Diljit Dosanjh as the drool-worthy Casanova who still knows an artist of greater calibre when he sees one and knows how to treat her with due respect, well ahead of his times.
Speaking of giving credit where it is due, especially to female artists, a giant kudos to Anushka Sharma who is telling us amazing stories through in her producer avatar, starting with NH10, and now Phillauri. Following her company Clean Slate Films with bated breath and googly fangirl eyes for what she does next.
And, finally, the music – oh, what a beauty! ‘Sahiba‘ has since been playing on loop on my phone ever since it was done streaming the movie for me. Even as I type this, the song is playing in the background and I am seeing Diljit Dosanjh crooning in front of that amazeballs giant microphone, which gives you real old-timey feels.
All in all, if you missed this movie because of the way-off reviews, or work, or life in general never giving you enough time to do all the theatre movie watching you want to do (or, as in my case, all of the above), do catch it now on TV or Hotstar. A work of art worth every second you spend with it.

 

PS: Fun trivia about this film. The CBFC wanted a scene in the movie cut because it showed the character Kanan reciting Hanuman Chalisa to ward away Shashi’s ghost and she doesn’t budge. The reason, and I love this part, that Hanuman Chalisa is a sure shot solution to ghost infestation and the movie inaccurately portrays it as being ineffective against one. So many incepted levels of idiocy there that it makes me laugh and cry for humanity everytime I think of it. Watch this movie, if for nothing else, then to piss off Mr Nihalani and his band of enlightened brothers.