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Toilet Ek Prem Katha is about so much more than just a toilet. It reveals much about what it means to be a woman seeking change in India.
As we came out of the movie: Toilet Ek Prem Katha, my husband reminded me jokingly, “We have three toilets at home.” And we laughed. And then as I thought of making this my Facebook post and my tweet, something struck me.
Is it only about the toilet? We city folks have had toilets for ages. But women do not become liberated by the number of toilets. People invariably find ways to undermine women.
Toilet Ek Prem Katha is not about the toilet, as much as it is about one woman’s courage to call a spade a spade. If not toilet, it could be about having a job or not, it could be about choosing the interior decor of her house, it could be about choosing what dress to wear, it could be about who she befriends, it could be about how much she can study, it could be about whether she can drive or not. And indeed, all these aspects are subtly brought out in different parts of the movie.
(Note: This post contains a few spoilers).
We have enough toilets in cities to forget about them once and for all. We worry more about cleaning them, and who cleans them too!
I work in a traditional set up as a professor, in my new avatar, after having taken a break from my corporate avatar. To some of my colleagues, it seems only saree can make women look like professors. Not very often but at times, Saree is imposed upon the women in this institution as a dress code for an occasion. And I hear from my friends that it is no different in many other colleges either. I love to wear sarees. In fact I have even taken up the 100 Saree Pact! But that was a choice not an imposition. I love sarees but not at the cost of my freedom of choice.
Every day I discover how I am curtailed against my own choice, merely because I am a woman. All the toilets on this planet have not stopped this phenomenon. There is so much talk of “A woman should not, must not” in the air, that any talk of “A woman can” is completely drowned beneath the din.
Coming back to the movie, this is about unconditional love on one side and the influence of the social pressures on this love on the other. While the man in this story truly cares for his lady love, he finds himself adhering to the same social norms which he is brought up with. The burden to break the stereotype is left totally to the woman. And she gets very little support from those suffering the same lot as hers.
It becomes a matter of pride and something to boast about, for most women, that they never complained that there is no toilet in their homes, that they adjusted to a slave like existence by choice. Such greatness! The problem is that no one sings her glory, besides she herself, in the false hope that she will be appreciated for her sacrifices. But our protagonist harbours no such false ideas of female gallantry. She is brutally logical, as she says that it is unsafe and completely insulting to a woman to go out in the open. She says it is totally inhuman for a woman to wait till darkness to fall, if she feels the urge to release herself during the day. She has a point, which everyone wishes to ignore.
Isn’t that familiar? Logic and women are to be kept apart in our society, otherwise God only knows what will befall, and here is a woman completely ignoring this dictum. She should be condemned for that. And that is what is done to her for most parts of this movie. Besides the fact that torn in this painful imbroglio, are two hearts who truly love each other, toilet or no toilet.
If not for the love, this story would have had a very tragic end; this woman would have surely been condemned to a life alone in her father’s home, which incidentally had a toilet. That is exactly how the people in this movie hoped for her story to end, as they mention it derisively on many occasions.
What came to this woman’s aid was three men. Her dad, her grand dad and her husband. Their support made a difference. For in both homes, her paternal and her own, the women were only doubtful of her, they found it difficult to support her. They felt it was her duty to adjust to her new home just as it was.
Had it not been for the inopportune accident of her father-in-law’s mother, when she needed a toilet close at home, this story would still have had a tragic twist to it. As our protagonist claimed, people wait for accidents to happen, to take an action. Her dad-in-law finally came around.
This movie is a satirical commentary on the social status of women more than it is about the ubiquitous social message of the present time, regarding public hygiene and toilets. Do not confuse this movie for anything but for what it is. About women who dare to bring a change!