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Addressing a social evil

AC Tuli |

Akshay Kumar’s forthcoming film, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is now getting a lot of pre-release publicity in the media, obviously because the film’s story is on the age-old social evil of our country — open defecation. According to one estimate, more than 600 million people in India still defecate in the open. Thus, the lack of basic sanitation facilities has adversely impacted the lives of our people.

The BJP government’s laudable project to construct toilets on a mass scale in both rural and urban India is expected to gradually eradicate this social evil. But the functioning of flush toilets presupposes an assured piped water supply in every home in a village, which in large parts of rural India still remains an uphill task.

Though rural India is the worst sufferer of the curse of open defecation, poor people living in the slums of urban India also have no toilets in their homes. This compels them to squat along railway lines or some other less-frequented spots, which naturally exposes them to various kinds of water-borne diseases and other health hazards.

worst sufferers of open defecation are of course rural children. Because of the free movement of faecal germs around them, they become vulnerable to various diseases, stunted physical growth being one of them. The average rural kid who is used to defecating in the open looks pitiably under-grown compared to his urban counterpart, who is accustomed to cleanflush toilets.

The story of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, as bits of it are now available on social media, revolves round the owner of a pay-and-use toilet who falls in love with a girl (played by Bhumi Pednekar) living in a slum locality of the city. They marry but the girl soon leaves her in-laws’ house in a village because there is no toilet there. It proves such a shocking and chastening experience for the husband that he single-handedly takes upon himself the responsibility to ensure that every household in his village is provided with a toilet.

Of course he has to face so many obstacles in his mission because of the superstitions of the village people — they believe that setting up toilets in their courtyards would be a way of defiling the sanctity of their hearths and homes. Through lack of general awareness, they mistakenly believe that open defecation keeps them clean while toilets in their homes shall make them unclean. Of course all this is depicted in the film in a light and comic vein in order to entertain viewers.

The film’s trailer is already out in the social media and has been seen by millions of people. Some time back, Akshay Kumar met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him of his forthcoming film. Ardent supporters of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan now hope that Toilet: Ek Prem Katha will give a big fillip to their cleanliness drive, which is already underway across the length and breadth of India.

The title of the film, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is in itself strange enough to arouse the cine-goers’ curiosity. They know that normally no filmmaker takes up a subject that is only considered fit for documentaries for a feature film. But Akshay Kumar, who has been supporting the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan of the BJP government right from its inception, is very keen on contributing his might to this mission. He says that he really much wanted to make a film on the social evil of open defecation in India, so when he got a script on this subject that fully met his expectations, he immediately decided to go ahead with the project.

Toilet: Ek Prem Katha — also starring Divyendu Sharma, Anupam Kher, Sudhir Pandey and Rajesh Sharma — is scheduled for release on 11 August.