'Loo'ny Tunes - The toilet in 'Toilet Ek Prem Katha' stands for all things radical

Last Updated: Sat, Aug 12, 2017 18:39 hrs

What could be more romantic than a man building the Taj Mahal for his wife? Building a damn toilet, if this tale is anything to go by. In this seemingly modern (cell-phones et al) village in Uttar Pradesh, a love story is on the brink of divorce, as the woman stands up for her basic right to a toilet.

Refusing to join the women’s “lota party” that leaves to at the break of dawn to poop in the fields, she leaves her husband’s home till he agrees to build a toilet at home.

The taken-for-granted toilet is a symbol of many things in the movie—standing up for your rights, a new thinking over the old, and it also stands for a husband’s love for his wife, stuck as he is between the dharmbrasht- spouting father and a modern view-point.

Where the film falters is indulging in cop-outs at crucial junctures. The hero’s pursuing of the college-student (the age-gap is jarring) borders on stalking, as he follows her around and clicks pictures without consent. Our firebrand heroine, who’s a college topper, wears a ‘ghoonghat’ and shows no ambition/academic interest post-marriage. The film also uses the too-familiar trope of the hero’s best friend/brother for him to voice his feelings and explain the narrative to the audience. While the film gives quick-fix solutions in the end and it is often guilty of pro-govt propaganda, it’s forgivable in light of the larger picture.

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Through the heroine’s personal strength, the film makes a very pertinent point of respecting oneself before expecting it of others. It’s refreshing for a film to even acknowledge the loo troubles of women. We are more used to seeing men pee on screen often in pairs to show a weird kind of bromance. And it’s such a refreshing take on love to see the couple steal romantic moments together as the husband drops his wife to a quick-fix loo solution daily.

The husband’s support to the wife for a toilet at home rocks the boat in the village. And as is the case with anything that’s subversive, resistance comes in droves both from women and men. It had me thinking about the latest buzzing topic of ‘period leave’ with several women denying the need for it, much like the women in the village who refuse the idea of a toilet because it’s such a radical idea for them.

In this love story, the villains are two old men who are terrified of change and use religious texts to justify their archaic vision. Their being terrified of a toilet at home, meaning comfort and empowerment of women, reminds me of the line in Lipstick Under My Burkha where a college-student asks, ‘Why are you so afraid of our freedom?’ No wonder our hero says, "Ye maamla shauch ka nahin, soch ka hain (this matter is not about the toilet, it is about our thinking)."

This single woman’s fight for a loo escalates into something bigger, and really, it’s a toilet here but it could be different things for viewers. My newly-hitched friend was inspired enough to say she wished she had fought to keep her maiden name post marriage. She also admonished the man who yawned loudly during the film to make his own sexist statement. You may not get as enthused as this friend of mine, but get inspired you will. Do watch and thank your stars for that loo within easy reach.