Romance isn’t all chocolates and rose petals, according to Bollywood’s A-list — it’s about toilets, too!
“Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (Toilet: A Love Story)” is a new Bollywood hit about a man named Keshav who marries a woman named Jaya who will not live with him unless he gets a toilet in the house.
“This is not about defecation,” Akshay Kumar, a Bollywood leading man who plays Keshav, says in the film. “It is about our whole way of thinking!”
Funny and melodramatic, the film manages to discuss the issue of open defecation in India, an important topic in social issues — and especially so when it comes to the health and safety of women, according to The Guardian.
The film has been criticized for being rather pro-government, writes The Guardian, because Prime Minister Narendra Modi is especially invested in the Clean India Mission, a campaign working to end open defecation in the country.
Since 2014, at least 40 million household toilets have been installed, according to Hudustan Times, with the goal to dramatically reduce the amount of disease spread through fecal-infected water supplies.
Still, the film has been widely successful in its first week of release.
It’s not the only film to tackle sensitive subjects in Bollywood. One of Kumar’s upcoming roles is in a film about Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man who created an inexpensive sanitary towel machine.
Another actor, Ayushmann Khurrana, plays a character suffering from erectile dysfunction in the upcoming movie Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (You, Me and Everything In Between).
“In this day and age,” Khurrana told The Guardian, “the subject of a film has to be novel. The hero has to be relatable.”
Khurrana has been in other less conventional films before. In 2012, Shoojit Sircar cast him as a sperm donor in Vicky Donor. Sircar would later co-write and produce Pink, a film about female consent.
While Sircar has taken on social issues in his films, he says that past generations led the way before him.
“The best of Indian cinema,” he said, “was done by the masters. They tackled casteism, gender equality and poverty in the 50s, 60s and up till the 70s. I’m just at the fag end trying to put together something.”
“Toilet: A Love Story” may be a step forward in the acknowledgement of social issues, but there is still an obvious problem in India that films do not yet touch — and that’s the inability to scrutinize political parties, and criticize the government.