Bol­ly­wood tack­les toi­let tribu­la­tions

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

MUM­BAI — Bol­ly­wood may be fa­mous for its blingy song and dance num­bers, but a new movie re­leased on Fri­day deals with a dis­tinctly less glam­orous sub­ject — In­dia’s chronic lack of toi­lets.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has made build­ing more toi­lets a key pri­or­ity in the coun­try of 1.25 bil­lion peo­ple, around half of whom still have to go into the fields to an­swer the call of na­ture.

Cam­paign­ers es­ti­mate that nearly 200,000 in­fants die every year due to in­fec­tions spread through open defe­ca­tion, which they say also puts women at risk of sex­ual as­sault.

Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha (Toi­let: A love Story) is in­spired by the true-life tale of one man’s bat­tle to build toi­lets in his vil­lage in ru­ral In­dia.

He wanted to win back his new wife, whose re­fusal to live in a house with­out a toi­let won her plau­dits in In­dia.

Script writ­ers Sid­dharth Singh and Garima Wa­hal said they hoped the movie, fea­tur­ing one of Bol­ly­wood’s big­gest stars Ak­shay Ku­mar, would have a “tan­gi­ble im­pact” on In­dian so­ci­ety.

“This hap­pened in a vil­lage in Mad­hya Pradesh, and we thought that was a strong state­ment,” said Singh, re­fer­ring to one of In­dia’s most ru­ral states.

The writ­ers said they came across nu­mer­ous sto­ries of women be­ing as­saulted when they went into the fields late at night in the process of re­search­ing the movie.

“But defe­cat­ing in the open is not only un­healthy it is also dan­ger­ous,” said Garima.

“While we were do­ing our re­search we heard of three in­ci­dents of mo­lesta­tion. Crimes against women have in­creased ow­ing to their vul­ner­a­bil­ity when they are out in the fields, alone in the dark, with their ‘pants down’ as it were.”

Garima said it was hyp­o­crit­i­cal for In­dian so­ci­ety to in­sist that women cover up on the one hand, while on the other forc­ing them to “ex­pose them­selves ow­ing to a lack of san­i­tary and bath­room fa­cil­i­ties”.

Ku­mar, who is one of the world’s high­est paid ac­tors with an in­come of $31.5 mil­lion ac­cord­ing to a Forbes rank­ing last year, re­cently re­leased a Toi­let An­them to pro­mote the cause.

“While mankind has pro­gressed far enough to jour­ney to Mars ... 54 per­cent of In­dia defe­cates in the open,” the song says.

Modi has called for every house­hold in In­dia to have a toi­let.

Last year, he an­nounced that his gov­ern­ment had al­ready built more than 20 mil­lion toi­lets since com­ing to power in 2014.

Around two-thirds of homes in the vil­lage that the movie is based on now have toi­lets, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Bol­ly­wood stars Ak­shay Ku­mar (left) and Bhumi Ped­nekar pose for pic­tures for their film

in Mum­bai last month.

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