Of the many films I expected to see, a film on India’s open defecation problem was not high on my list. But “Toilet Ek Prem Katha” just shot up to the top.
We take toilets pretty much as an everyday fact of life, but did you know that most of India still, excuse the term, shits in the open? And all because they lack this one thing which we take for granted: a functioning toilet.
Having a toilet goes beyond the obvious question of hygiene and sanitation: it’s a question of dignity, safety and human rights. And this never struck me as hard as when I was watching this trailer. In it, Bhumi Pednekar’s character straight up tells Akshay Kumar’s character that she wouldn’t have married him if she knew he didn’t have a toilet in the house. The absurdity of it shook me. Because of course she wouldn’t have. Why would she, when going to the toilet out in the open means exposing yourself not only to wildlife and other dangers, but also – especially for women – the very real danger of sexual assault?
I wouldn’t go out to shit in the open, not even if you paid me money. That’s because I expect to live a certain standard of life. And guess what? It’s a standard that everyone should have. And this trailer really hit home for me. Especially the moments when Pednekar’s character jumps in fear while squatting outside because a man cycled past. It’s a fear I well understand, walking down dark roads and looking askance at every shadowy figure. Imagine taking care of your most basic needs, like that.
At a time when we’re talking about Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and making India open defecation free, remember that it’s not just about cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation. It’s about the right to a dignified life that every person should have. And sometimes, that can start with something as basic as a toilet.