Toilet: Ek Bhakt Ki Katha

Pop Culture

Toilet: Ek Bhakt Ki Katha

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

In a country where people are various shades of orange than common sense, the road to becoming Bhakt No 1 is not an easy one. It is fraught with more competition than an entire season of Roadies. But, like a true Khatron Ke Khiladi, Akshay Kumar won the competition by invoking the powers of potty.

His latest release, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, stars him as Keshav, a Mathura resident, who starts a mini-revolution by insisting on building a toilet in every house after his wife complains about the perils of defecating in the fields, as part of the “lota party”. In Kumar’s hands, what could have been a “satire” that could goad people into understanding the gravity of India’s sanitation crisis, ultimately becomes a dishonest paean to the greatness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The film is so ignorant of facts that a more appropriate name for it would have been Fan.

Unlike Union Minister Babul Supriyo, who tweeted about how the Chandigarh stalking incident wasn’t a case of “abduction” but the romantic “mischief” of a drunk boy chasing a girl he likes, and earned himself saffron points, Kumar’s strategy was longer than 140 characters. It lasted a full three hours.

In Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Akshay Kumar’s Keshav not only proved the hypothesis echoed by a horde of BJP ministers that “pyaar stalking hota hai”, but he also one-upped Babul Supriyo by showing him that actions speak louder than tweets. His actions involved making a girl fall in love with him after relentlessly stalking her for days, photographing her without permission, and then using those pictures to advertise his cycle shop. True love, indeed.

Akshay Kumar’s Keshav proved the hypothesis echoed by a horde of BJP ministers that “pyaar stalking hota hai”.

Image Credit / Viacom Motion Pictures

After Supriyo’s effortless elimination, Akshay Kumar had only one competitor to vanquish before he could set a date with Amit Shah. That man was none other than the Accidental Prime Minister, Anupam Kher, aka, the human version of a love letter that is perennially addressed to Mr Modi. In this case, Kumar gave the world a masterclass in surgical strikes by following the adage “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” Being fully aware of Kher’s popularity and devotion toward cleansing the country of anti-nationals, Kumar cast him in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha as the older “kakka” with a penchant for Sunny Leone, and a hobby of waxing eloquent about the great lengths the government is going to make India the autocratic equivalent of Narnia.

Pandey may not be a Mrs Funnybones, but he certainly knows how to invoke Kumar’s patriotic bones.

Although Kher managed to give a convincing performance as himself, heightened by his rousing speeches on deshbhakti, it unfortunately wasn’t enough to counter the wall of Sunny Leone-induced horniness that was granted to his character. In a country where even peacocks don’t have sex, how can a man with a hard on ever be Bhakt No 1?

After Anupam Kher’s untimely elimination, the stage was set for Akshay Kumar to win. And win he did. As Keshav, the actor tirelessly pursued government agenda on the back of good old potty. He addresses problems of open defecation, the woeful conditions of sanitation plaguing rural India, dutifully throws around words from a government-approved checklist. For instance, he asks a journalist who presents a controversial question if she works for a foreign channel, and by extension is a member of the #FakeNews Club. Then, he hits a home run by sneakily plugging in mentions of PM Modi’s kryptonite: demonetisation. “When our prime minister can stop currency notes, why can’t we stop our bowels?” The question is deep and the answer may take us generations to find. During the entirety of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Kumar manages to scrub our government so clean that any and every Harpic ad shames itself in comparison.

In fact, Akshay Kumar’s descent into bhaktdom isn’t a new occurrence. His entry into the world of “PM Modi is the best Modi ever” started when he met his work wife, Neeraj Pandey. In Special 26, their first baby together, Kumar played a CBI officer in love with his country. In their next adventure, Baby, he is a part of a special task force and in love with his country. And, finally, in Naam Shabana, their last outing that released this year, Akshay Kumar once again played an Indian agent so in love with his country that he ended up shortchanging the woman lead’s screen time in the film.

Pandey may not be a Mrs Funnybones, but he certainly knows how to invoke Kumar’s patriotic bones. His influence is such that it transcends to the actor’s other films as well, like Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty, where he plays an Indian soldier who doesn’t even rest on a holiday. There’s Airlift, where he plays an Indian living in Kuwait, but secretly singing “mera bharat mahaan”. With such a diverse film career, it’s no surprise that Akshay Kumar ended up being not only the poster boy of manufactured patriotism – leaving Aamir Khan and his tears far far behind – but also became the Anjali to PM Modi’s Rahul.

The film is inspired from a real-life incident of Anita Narre, a newly wed who left her in-law’s house because it didn’t have a toilet.

Image Credit / Viacom Motion Pictures

His devotion passed with flying colours especially in the shaky premise of Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. The film, which is an ode to PM Modi’s pet cause of sanitation and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, is inspired from a real-life incident of Anita Narre, a newly wed who left her in-law’s house because it didn’t have a toilet. While the film implies that her toilet revolution happened after the BJP government came to power, and is a result of Modiji’s magical existence, in reality, it happened way back in 2011. It takes an ultimate bhakt to negate facts and logic, and just run with their version.

While launching the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, Modi once famously said, “Build toilets first, temples later.” With Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Akshay Kumar seems to counter that message with his very own version: “Build deshbhakti first, governance later.”