If there is one Khan doing different stuff apart from Aamir Khan then that is Akshay Kumar. Be-loved-ly referred to as the fourth Khan of Bollywood, Akshay once again proves to be bigger than a film that he is starring in and almost single-handedly drives that film to a height higher than what the director projected it for. The result is a strangely funny and sarcastic film that takes a burning issue and even though it makes a caricature of it from time to time, still ends up being entertaining and eye opening at many junctures.
Keshav (Akshay Kumar) is a 36-year-old unmarried man in a village that marries off its men early and sends its women to fields to defecate. Keshav meets Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar) on a train and falls head over heels for her. He woos her into submission and they soon get married to live happily thereafter. But after a terrific “Suhag Raat”, Jaya wakes up to the call of the “Lota Party”, a group of women who wake up at 4 am in the morning and take a long journey to the fields to do their morning businesses.
This predicament is unacceptable to Jaya who starts revolting. Keshav tries every trick in the book to get her to do her morning business without much of a fuss which includes using the Indian Railways but certain incidents happen that make the situation unbearable for Jaya. She leaves home and Keshav is now forced to solve the problem at hand rather than finding easy fixes to the issues. How he does that is what this film is about.
Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is a film about a burning social issue. Many times when I went to watch films, I saw ads that advised people on not defecating in the open. May be at that time I felt it all be unnecessary but now I realize where the root of that problem lies and why those ads are essential. For a film of this nature to have made even that much point is enough.
The film takes a lengthy but endearing path understanding and solving the problem at hand. At around 3 hours, this is a fairly long film and at many junctures, especially during the song and dance routines, it does get a bit boring but that’s about it. Other than that, the film is able to engage you initially in the sweet love story of Keshav and Jaya and then in their struggle first against an oppressive and staunch society, then their own mindsets and finally the government. The film tackles all these issues bluntly but in a manner that is bound to put a smile on your face.
Akshay Kumar is brilliant. His acting is so natural and likable that when he is on the screen you won’t notice any flaws in the narrative. He cooks up a credible chemistry with Bhumi who is equally good. I just loved the circumstantial comedy that pops up every now and then. The comedy that arises out of the issues related to the toilets is hilarious. What makes these scenes work even better is the earnest way in which they are acted out. The characters feel real and so do their problems.
The comedy in the first half gets raunchy every now and then. Before the toilet predicament starts, the comedy is mostly dependent on the chemistry and the hilarious situations that arise out of Keshav trying to woo Jaya with the help and advice of Naru (Divyendu Sharma). Naru is much more than a mere sidekick and plays an active role in making the story and the comedy real. He is at many times funnier than Keshav.
The only issues that I had with the film were the fact that it was too long. The story also didn’t have much meat in terms of content, drama, twists, and turns or for that matter social message. The romantic angle between Akshay and Bhumi works really well but it receives a jolt in the very beginning when Akshay is depicted as a Philander and then shown to fall madly in love with her at first sight. It just feels odd when you watch the film. It would have played well to have depicted him as a 36-year-old virgin before he meets Bhumi for the love story to make a better impact.
The film drags in portions. The part towards the middle of the second half where Jaya vents her anger on Keshav who gradually starts understanding her view point is unnecessarily pulled and made melodramatic. Also, the social message that the film gives, at many junctures, feels too much inspired by the Narendra Modi Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan. This gives a feeling of the film being more propaganda than drama which is never a good thing. The culmination of the film though apt is nothing extraordinary. A tighter and more exciting screenplay would have made this a much better film.
Having said all that, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is still a very watchable film for its performances, comedy and the entertainment quotient that it has to offer. It is also a film that has an important social message to deliver and it delivers it fairly well. For fans of Akshay Kumar, it is a must watch. The others may also watch it.
Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)