This Bollywood Film Is A Love Story About Toilets And Trying To Flush Away One Of India's Biggest Problems

Funny, yes, but taking on more than one issue.

Bollywood's latest film ditches the song-and-dance routines in lieu of a love story about toilets. Stay with us here, because there's a major reason Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (translated to Toilet: A Love Story) is culturally relevant and playing a part to change the way India goes No. 2.


The Hindi-language satirical comedy, directed by Shree Narayan Singh, stars Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar as Keshav and Jaya, respectively. The plot centers around the couple who are from two different villages where the vast majority of households don't have toilets. The first day of their marriage, Jaya leaves upon finding out that Keshav's house doesn't have a bathroom. Keshav is left to win back Jaya's affection by standing up to the traditional mindsets and traditions of the country in regards to lavatory practices.

Reviews for Toilet: Ek Prem Katha have been pretty mixed, with Times of India giving it 4/5 stars, while the Hindustan Times gives it 2.5/5 stars and The Indian Express gives it 2/5 stars. Perhaps the most important thing with a film such as this one, though, is the message behind it.

India's government has a campaign called Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (translated to Clean India Mission), which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the goal to end open defecation by October 2, 2019. It aims to do this by constructing 12 million toilets in rural areas, where poorer populations have even less access to toilets, per The World Bank.

Kumar, in an interview with India Today, said he was "shocked" upon learning about the country's lack of toilets, calling it a "huge problem" while giving props to the government for striving towards eradicating the issue. The exact number of people without toilets is hard to pinpoint, as Channel 4 lists the number being "at least 636 million people," which is close to AFP's estimate that around half of the population, which was 1.324 billion in 2016, are without toilets. UNICEF has similar numbers, too. That said, strides have been made and the numbers — while not completely better — are improving.

Part of the problem here, beyond the topic of cleanliness and sanitation, is safety for India's female population. According to the United Nations Children's Fund (via the Los Angeles Times), 50 percent of rape cases in India happen when women and girls relieve themselves in the open. Females are constrained to only go defecate out in the open before sunrise and after sunset, could come in contact with snakes and scorpions while doing so, and are often violated by people taking photos or videos of them during the act — all of this is occurring while they are in a vulnerable situation.

With the government making strides to fix this problem and for films to be raising the issue in a creative way, it sounds like India is on its way to flushing away its issue of a lack of toilets.

Cover image via Toilet - Ek Prem Katha / Facebook | Toilet - Ek Prem Katha / Facebook


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