Finally, it's out in 'open' stinking (read hinting) at the alarming rate of 54 percent of defecation in India happening in open fields, riversides etc. TOILET: EK PREM KATHA is a terrifically performed, relevant and entertaining eye-opener that raises an alarm but somewhere in its over feeding of the message get constipated leaving it to the star powers of Akshay Kumar to work as the hajmola.
Written by the GOLIYON KI RASLEELA RAM-LEELA fame Siddharth Singh and Garima Wahal, the satire in the Shree Narayan Singh (forgettable YEH JO MOHABBAT HAI first) second feature is witty, smooth and breezy in the first half that aptly comments on the rigid superstitious mindset. The movie opens with a group of women from the village 'lota party' carrying a lota (spherical water vessel) going in groups for their early morning routine to be done in open fields by covering their faces. Now, for those who have had the privilege of using the toilet in their home may find it weird but it is the hard fact of our digital India. The satire goes well when we see the women accepting it and making a good use of it by ranting about their in-laws during this time. Moving further a happy go baravi (12th) pass 36 year-old Keshav (Akshay Kumar) gets hilariously married to a buffalo to overcome the evils. So far a brilliant satire exploiting the rigid and bizarre mindset of a village in rural India is serving the purpose brilliantly to entertain, educate and probe. Things take a routine rom-com turn when the state topper Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar) meets Keshav. Another love story takes birth in a train but the writer and director spice it with sly humour, rustic flavor of the Hindi heartland and keep it amusing throughout. Yes it comes with a degree of suspension of disbelief to imagine a 49-year old Akshay Kumar going gol gappas over the DUM LAGA KE reduced kiya weight Bhumi Pednekar (less kilos more charm) the U. P. state topper who is at least 15 years younger than Keshav. They get married and next morning when Jaya wakes up, she finds herself in complete shock and disbelief that Keshav's house doesn't has a toilet and she has to join the village 'lota party' with immediate effect.
Jaya confronts and problem begins. The liberal thinking Jaya partly starts adjusting, committed hubby Keshav finds a unique way out in making her wife's demand of fulfilling her nature's call in a train which stops for good 7-8 minutes. Meanwhile Keshav's subdued attempt to get approval of a toilet inside their house from his conservative father Panditji (Sudhir Pandey) falls on deaf ears. One unfortunate day Jaya gets locked inside the toilet and train moves. So far so good.
Second half begins raising hope of a solid satire that exposes the rigid mindset, corrupt politicians and red tapism in the system showcasing the significance of clean India (Swachh Bharat) and sanitations for females (soch badlo desh badlega) movement but alas, it gets constipated in its eagerness, turns preachy and unnecessarily long. It misses the satire and fails to make any strong cinematic statement.
It's sad that a movie inspired from a true story of toilet crusader in Madhya Pradesh – Anita Narre who made local headlines when she deserted her husband immediately after her marriage in 2011 as her 'sasural' didn't have a toilet at their house at village Jeetudhana, becomes more of a crusade of Keshav to bring his wife Jaya back. The sanitation issue is there but it has already gone preachy and surprisingly Jaya after raising an issue and mounting a speech on equal powers for women takes a back seat and watches the proceedings.
Performances are top-notch. Akshay Kumar is in his comfort zone and is terrific. He has gone better and better as an actor and here he is in complete command.
Bhumi Pednekar excels and shines. Her chemistry with Akshay Kumar is charming.
Sudhir Pandey is brilliant, Divyendu Sharma as Akshay's friend is amusing. Anupam Kher has its moments.
Production values are apt. Anshuman Mahaley's camera work is excellent. Editor turned director Shree Narayan Singh should have given himself an extra pair of scissors. (The movie needs to be trimmed by at least 10 minutes). Vickey Pradsad's 'Hans Mat Pagli' and 'Bakheda' are well tuned and it is good to hear the soothing voice of Sonu Nigam. 'Gori Tu Latth Maar' is colourfully shot.
TOILET: EK PREM KATHA could have been a masterstroke but it isn't a lost hope either. In spite of its constipated second half and sluggish approach, the movie has its witty, satirical moments, terrific performances that entertain to the core and at least hint towards the open 'shit' that almost 54 percent of our proud digital India witnesses daily. Akshay Kumar deserves an extra pat on his back for highlighting it through a mainstream cinematic medium. Watch it at least for Akshay Kumar, his efforts and the cause the movie tries to raise.