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Movie ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ is an Effort by Bollywood Filmmakers to End Problem of Open Defecation

Toilet, a Love Story is the tale of a bicycle shop owner’s struggle to build a toilet for his wife, who abandons him because she refuses to go into the fields like other women in the village

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Toilet: Ek Prem Katha
The Bollywood film, "Toilet: A love story" hopes to trigger change in sanitation habits in a country where open defecation in villages is common and considered healthy by many. VOA
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  • Bollywood film turns the spotlight on open defecation in the country
  • The theme has resonance in a country where half the 1.3 billion people defecate in the open
  • The film highlights how women, faces covered, venture into fields before sunrise under cover of darkness

New Delhi, Aug 24, 2017: India’s glitzy Bollywood movies and toilets have little in common, but they came together in a recent film that turns the spotlight on one of the most unglamorous challenges the country is tackling — open defecation.

Starring a top hero, Akshay Kumar, Toilet, a Love Story is the tale of a bicycle shop owner’s struggle to build a toilet for his wife, who abandons him because she refuses to go into the fields like other women in the village.

It is inspired by the true story of a woman in central India who walked out on her husband because there was no toilet in the house.

The theme has resonance in a country where half the 1.3 billion people defecate in the open, exposing them, particularly women and children, to diseases.

Indian schoolchildren participate in a rally to mark World Toilet Day in Hyderabad, India, Nov.19, 2014. India is considered to have the world’s worst sanitation record despite spending some $3 billion since 1986 on sanitation programs, according to government figures. VOA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is racing to build millions of toilets to meet its pledge to end open defecation by 2019. But as it turns out, the problem is not just about access to latrines, but changing behavior in a society where many people consider this a healthy practice.

Resistance to latrines

“People associate it with Ayurveda (a traditional system of medicine and health), you get a morning walk, you get fresh air, all kinds of reasoning which they come up with,” said Nikhil Srivastav, research director at the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics in New Delhi.

Campaigners point out that statistics on the latrines constructed in thousands of villages are meaningless because barely half are being used.

Starring one of India's box office heroes, Akshay Kumar, the film tells the story of a bicycle shop owner's efforts to overcome his father's resistance to building a toilet in the house after his wife walks out on him because she refuses to go into the fields to defecate.
Starring one of India’s box office heroes, Akshay Kumar, the film tells the story of a bicycle shop owner’s efforts to overcome his father’s resistance to building a toilet in the house after his wife walks out on him because she refuses to go into the fields to defecate. VOA

The widespread cultural resistance to latrine use in rural India is also born out of beliefs that pit latrines are impure and polluting, and that you cannot have a toilet under the same roof as the kitchen.

Bollywood’s influence

The film addresses some of those problems as the protagonist meets with powerful opposition when he constructs a toilet in the house because his infuriated father, an upper caste Hindu, believes it violates age-old tradition.

Can the film help by sparking a conversation around sanitation, especially in rural India? Bollywood after all is one of the country’s major influencers.

Also Read: UN Gives a Thumbs-Up to Movie ‘Toilet-Ek Prem Katha’, Appreciates Stars for Addressing Health And Pollution Issue Through Film

“The fact that someone is willing to put their money and make a movie about it, I say great. If it is going to trigger off 50,000 people, who started to think differently about the issue, it has value,” said V.K Madhavan, who heads WaterAid India.

The issue is emerging as an important one: Last week a woman in Rajasthan state was granted a divorce after judges ruled that her husband’s failure to build a toilet at home amounted to “physical cruelty” as she had to wait until dusk before going into the fields.

The film highlights how women, faces covered, venture into fields before sunrise under cover of darkness.

Caste system and old habits

Another stumbling block in the campaign to popularize toilets is India’s centuries-old caste system, in which only lower castes are supposed to clean toilets. Many villagers are rejecting the basic latrines being built because the pits would have to be emptied manually once every few years, a task the aspirational lower castes are no longer willing to do and which others also shun.

“So often these latrines get taken away, broken down, used for storing cow dung cakes or other things,” Srivastav said.

An Indian woman walks in a field after relieving herself in the open, on World Toilet Day on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Nov. 19, 2014. Some villages have public bathrooms, but many women avoid using them because they are usually in disrepair and men hang around and harass women. VOA

Toilet Anthem, released by filmmakers to promote the cause of sanitation, underlines the paradox of a country where vast progress in areas such as space and technology and an aspirational middle class stand in stark contrast with deeply rooted traditional beliefs across thousands of villages.

“While mankind has progressed far enough to journey to Mars and scale Mount Everest, 54 percent of India defecates in the open,” goes the anthem.

Sanitation experts however stress that the battle will have to be won softly and warn that some cases of zealous officials coercing people to use newly constructed latrines to meet India’s target of ending open defecation may be counterproductive.

“If you have to deal with [the] cultural nuances around it, deal with old habits, you need to get feet on the ground to be able to talk to people, convince them gradually over a period of time. It does not happen overnight,” Madhavan said.

Prime Minister Modi has praised the film as a “good effort to further the message of cleanliness.”

Whether it will actually have any impact remains to be seen, but campaigners are digging their heels in for a drawn-out effort. (VOA)

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Top 10 Best Movies of Sonakshi Sinha

Sonakshi Sinha is a multi-talented Bollywood actress and has made a lasting impact on the industry since her debut.

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Sonakshi Sinha, Wikimedia

By Ruchika Verma

  • Sonakshi Sinha is one of the most loved actresses in Bollywood  today
  • Sonakshi has made a lasting impact in the industry from the moment of her debut
  • Sonakshi Sinha’s movies are always entertaining because of their storylines and Sonakshi’s brilliant performances

Sonakshi Sinha is a multi-talented Bollywood actress who has made a lasting impact on the industry since her debut. She is a very talented singer, dancer and actor who has been making waves in Bollywood because of her bold statements and outlook on life.

Sonakshi Sinha has made a name for herself, overcoming her parent's shadow.
Sonakshi Sinha has made a name for herself, overcoming her parent’s shadow. Wikimedia Commons

Sonakshi is the daughter of legendary actor Shatrughan Sinha and beautiful Poonam Sinha. She has been successful in stepping out of her parent’s shadow and making a name of her own in the Bollywood.

Here is the list of her top 10 best Bollywood movies, which showcases her talent aptly :

 Dabangg 

Sonakshi Sinha made her debut in the Bollywood with this movie, alongside the superstar Salman Khan. Although critics slammed her role as a damsel in this film, she still managed to garner attention and appreciation because of her excellent acting skills. Her dialogue delivery and attitude were also appreciated.

Dabangg 2

Dabangg 2 was the sequel to her debut movie, Dabangg. She reprises her role in this film along with Salman Khan. Sonakshi Sinha played the role of Salman’s wife in this movie with perfection. Her character was much stronger than the previous film and she did complete justice to it. Her comic timing and emotional scenes were both worth applauding.

You may also like: Salman Khan starrer Bharat will release on Eid 2019 

Dabangg 2 was one of the Sonakshi's bigger hits Picture credit: wallpapers99.com
Dabangg 2 was one of the Sonakshi’s bigger hits Picture credit: wallpapers99.com

Lingaa

In this movie, Sonakshi Sinha got the opportunity to star opposite none other than the superstar, Rajinikanth. Lingaa was a Tamil movie that was also released in Hindi. Sonakshi’s performance was outstanding and garnered many positive reviews. It is not easy to work besides Rajinikanth and not get overshadowed, but Sonakshi managed to shine through in this film with her brilliant performance.

Rowdy Rathore

It was another movie where Sonakshi Sinha proved her mettle as an actress. Rowdy Rathore was a remake of Telugu film directed by Prabhu Deva, and starred Akshay Kumar opposite Sonakshi Sinha in the lead role. Sonakshi’s pretty face added freshness to the film and her acting and on point expressions made this otherwise serious movie, fun to watch. Her chemistry with Akshay Kumar was also appreciated.

Sonakshi has worked with Prabhu Deva many times. Wikimedia Commons
Sonakshi has worked with Prabhu Deva many times. Wikimedia Commons

 Lootera

Based on O. Henry’s short story, ‘The Last Leaf, Lootera was one brilliant movie. It is said to be one of the Sonakshi’s best performances till date. She pulled off her role very well and with ease. Sonakshi achieved a lot of critical acclaim for this film. Her chemistry with Ranveer Singh was also appreciated.

Tevar

Tevar was one of the most entertaining movies, it is also one of the best movies that Sonakshi Sinha acted in. She starred opposite Arjun Kapoor and performed with finesse. Tevar couldn’t do well at the box office, but Sonakshi’s performance was highly appreciated.

Sonakshi Sinha's most films have performed well at the box office, proving her competence as an actress. Wikimedia Commons
Sonakshi Sinha’s most films have performed well at the box office, proving her competence as an actress. Wikimedia Commons

R… Rajkumar

R… Rajkumar was the movie where Sonakshi Sinha proved her mettle as a dancer. She starred opposite Shahid Kapoor and was applauded for her dance numbers and chemistry with him. The movie was also a hit and Sonakshi was highly appreciated for her acting skills. Sonakshi Sinha decided to stay classy and her decency certainly paid off.

Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty

The ‘Holiday’ was an action thriller, and Sonakshi once again proved her mettle as an actor. The movie stars Akshay Kumar alongside her in the lead roles. Although the movie revolved around Akshay’s characters, Sonakshi delivered a powerful performance. Her role as a sportsperson was applauded by both audiences and critics.

Action Jackson

Action Jackson was yet another action comedy, and Sonakshi Sinha once again collaborated with Prabhu Deva to deliver a hit. She stared along Ajay Devgn and Yami Gautam in the movie. Sonakshi’s role of a simple working woman impressed the audience, and her chemistry with Ajay was also appreciated.

Sonakshi Sinha has done many action movies throughout her career. Wikimedia Commons
Sonakshi Sinha has done many action movies throughout her career. Wikimedia Commons

Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara!

Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai, which was one of the best movies made on the topic of the underworld, and it was the prequel to this movie. Sonakshi was cast opposite Imran Khan and her performance was highly appreciated.