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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
  • 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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Sexual abuse is everywhere in the world, says Radhika

The actress believes that one should know how to say 'No'

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Radhika Apte's view on sexual abuse
Bollywood actress Radhika Apte says that sexual abuse is not only in B-town but in every part of the society. Wikimedia Commons

– Durga Chakravarty

Actress Radhika Apte feels that sexual abuse does not only exist in the world of showbiz but takes place in every alternate household.

“Sexual abuse takes place in every alternate household. So it’s not a part of just the film industry. You have so much child abuse, domestic abuse everywhere in the world, including India,” Radhika told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

She says it exists in “every field and household at some level or the other and that it all needs to be eliminated”.

Sexual abuse does not target just women, stresses Radhika.

“It’s also towards men, little boys and everybody. People exploit their power at every level.”

Radhika asserted that this needed to change.

“I think it starts from us putting our foot down and saying ‘no’ to things, however big your ambition is. You need to be brave about it, believe in your own talent, say ‘no’ and start speaking up because if one person speaks up, nobody is going to listen to him or her. But if 10 people do, then others would (listen to them),” she said.

The “Phobia” actress, who will be seen mentoring budding filmmakers in MTV’s upcoming digital show “Fame-istan”, says there has to be a more organised platform for people to work.

“There has to be more professional platforms as well as rules in place which is slowly happening.”

Sexual abuse has been a topic of debate in Bollywood and Hollywood. Prominent names from the entertainment industry are discussing how men in power take advantage of women in exchange for taking forward their dreams.

The sexual harassment saga started when a media house published a story in October revealing numerous accusations of sexual abuse against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

But why are no names taken in the case of casting couch in Bollywood?

“Because of fear, because people who have great ambitions are afraid. They think of what will happen to them if they take somebody’s name who has so much power. That’s what I am saying. Everybody has to speak up,” she added.

Radhika ventured into Bollywood in 2005 with “Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi!” and since then has explored genres like thriller, drama and adult comedy with films like “Rakht Charitra”, “Shor in the City”, “Badlapur”, “Parched” and “Hunterrr”.

Was it a conscious decision to act less in commercial entertainers?

Radhika said: “Nothing like that. You have to choose from the work that you have. You can’t say that ‘I want that’ if that’s not been offered to you. So, whatever is offered to you, you choose from that. You make your choice whatever you feel is going to be more challenging or something that inspires you or excites you.”

She says she makes her choices in the “spur of the moment” with whatever she feels intuitively. “I am not a very big planner.” (IANS)

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Sridevi’s daughter Jhanvi Kapoor all set to debut in Bollywood

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Daughter of Sridevi
Jhanvi Kapoor is the daughter of veteran actress Sridevi and Director Boney Kapoor

Radhika Bhirani

“Let me tell you, I feel like a newcomer,” Sridevi asserts, breaking into a giggle almost reminiscent from her ahead-of-times 1991 film “Lamhe”, even as she prepares to let her elder daughter loose in the Bollywood world. She says nothing comes easy in life, and she is sure her Jhanvi is ready to face the challenges.

Jhanvi, who is frequently followed by the paparazzi in Mumbai, will reportedly foray into films with a remake of Marathi hit “Sairat”.

Steering clear of divulging details about Jhanvi’s debut, Sridevi told IANS over phone from Mumbai: “She has chosen this path and profession, and I have been in this industry for long. So I am mentally more prepared than her. She has been watching me, and knows what she is getting into.”

“Nothing is going to be a cakewalk in any profession. So you have to work hard, and there will be challenges. I’m sure she is ready for it.”

The charismatic actress made a powerful comeback of sorts with “Mom” earlier this year — five years after her delightful plain Jane avatar in “English Vinglish”.

As “Mom”, which will soon release in Russia, nears its world television premiere on &Pictures on Saturday, Sridevi — who also has daughter Khushi — spoke about her worries as a parent.

“I’m of course worried when they go out, but luckily, they know their limits and they are very responsible children. When you have responsible children, half the battle is over. So, you don’t have to worry. But you are concerned. The concern will never go, and you’ll always be conscious about them,” said the 54-year-old.

Sridevi has been a big screen delight since her Bollywood debut with the 1978 movie “Solva Sawan”. But acting is something she started when she was all of four. In Hindi cinema, “Himmatwala”, “Mr. India”, “Chandni”, “Sadma”, “Nagina”, “ChaalBaaz”, “Lamhe” and “Khuda Gawah” are some of the films which established her footing as a performer who took woman power seriously.

The trait has continued with “English Vinglish” and “Mom” — in both of which she played the strong role of a mother effectively.

While most women actors in India complain about lack of roles for older actresses, Sridevi retorted: “Let me tell you, I feel that my career has just started, haan (giggles). I feel like a newcomer, and I feel that my career is going to start now. It’s not finished, it’s going to start now.”

She is also unlike many others — even much younger actors — who are putting their life story into books.

“Arre, maine kuch achieve nai kiya (I haven’t achieved anything), where I write about my story or my book. There’s a long way to go. There’s nothing, nothing like this,” she said, sounding almost ignorant, but humble, of the fan followers of her emotive power and fluid dancing skills.

At this point, she is just enthused to deliver more.

“There are definitely two films that are coming up, but it’s too early to talk about it. (There’s) Nothing I can say right now,” she said.

Over the years, Sridevi has not just embraced the changes in Indian cinema, but also opened up herself to an environment where celebrities — as opposed to her own shy self in her earlier days — need to go all out to promote her projects.

“Look, with the time, I have definitely opened up. I am definitely introvert and shy, and have never been rude to… I’ve definitely been shy, but thanks to my children, I have opened up. Somewhere, you have to change with the time.

“You can’t be like what you were… It doesn’t work that way. And do that (change) within your comfort, not by going out of it.”

That besides, she says a positive frame of mind, helps her look forward to what life has to offer.

“Be in a positive frame of mind, be happy, fulfil your goals, work hard… It never goes waste.”

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Manoj Bajpayee is an amazing actor and a team player on set: Sidharth Malhotra

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

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Actor Sidharth Malhotra
Actor Sidharth Malhotra. Wikimedia Commons

November 7, 2017: Actor Sidharth Malhotra, who will be seen sharing screen space with Manoj Bajpayee in “Aiyaary”, says the National Award winning actor is amazing and a team player.

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

A user asked the “Student Of The Year” actor about his experience working with Manoj in “Aiyaary”.

Sidharth replied: “He’s an amazing actor and a team player on set.”

“Aiyaary”, set in Delhi, London and Kashmir, revolves around two strong-minded Army officers having completely different views, yet right in their own ways. It is a real-life story based on the relationship between a mentor and a protege.

Presented by Plan C and Jayantilal Gada (Pen), the project is produced by Shital Bhatia, Dhaval Jayantilal Gada, Motion Picture Capital.

When asked about the development of the film, Sidharth replied: “Awesome. Excited to show it in a few months.”

Sidharth, 32, also described his “Brothers” co-star Akshay Kumar as his “brother from another mother.”(IANS)