Bollywood’s hot new topics: open toilets, menstrual hygiene and erectile dysfunction
This is not about defecation,” says the hero of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which translates as Toilet: A Love Story. “It is about our whole way of thinking!” What makes this startling line all the more surprising is that it is delivered by Akshay Kumar, an actor straight out of the Bollywood A-list.
The film, as the second half of its title suggests, has no shortage of such Bollywood staples as romance and love songs. But the main subject matter is one that no Hindi film has ever tackled before: open defecation. This is a singularly Indian problem. Various studies estimate that 60% of India’s billion-plus population don’t have access to a bathroom. For women, this isn’t just a question of sanitation. It’s about safety, privacy and independence.
Kumar plays Keshav, a villager who marries an educated, spirited woman called Jaya. She simply refuses to join the other village women in their daily crack-of-dawn outing to the fields. Although she loves Keshav, she won’t live with him unless he addresses the toilet issue. This inspires Keshav to defy both his superstitious father and the village elders. “If you want your wife to be with you,” he says, in another memorable line, “there has to be a toilet in the house.”
Photo courtesy of Maria Andersson.
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