Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha leads the charge of films that tear through the hush-hush sub­jects of In­dian so­ci­ety. Are au­di­ences ready for it?

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Front Page - Rishabh Suri

You need big stars to drive sub­jects that are new; you can never un­der­mine star power GAURI SHINDE, FILM­MAKER

Bollywood is changing, and for the bet­ter, when it comes to break­ing taboos in an en­ter­tain­ing way. Sev­eral up­com­ing main­stream films have taken up sub­jects that In­dian so­ci­ety still can’t talk about frankly. Th­ese range from open defe­ca­tion (Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha) and men­strual hy­giene (Pad­man) to erec­tile dys­func­tion (Shubh Man­gal Saavd­han) and va­sec­tomy (Poster Boys). This year’s June re­lease, Phullu, had its plot based on the need for low-cost san­i­tary nap­kins.

Gauri Shinde, di­rec­tor of last year’s Dear Zindagi, which dealt with de­pres­sion, says that the In­dian au­di­ence was al­ways ready for such sub­jects. “Though we’ve been ready for a long time now, not many film­mak­ers were will­ing to risk it, due to the fear of the box-of­fice [fail­ure].”

Now, with A-lis­ters such as Ak­shay Ku­mar and Ayush­mann Khur­rana star­ring in such films, the mes­sage that the film­mak­ers in­tend to con­vey is ac­cepted more eas­ily. Shree Narayan Singh, di­rec­tor of Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha, star­ring Ak­shay and Bhumi Ped­nekar, agrees. “I can talk as much as I want about this cru­cial is­sue of proper san­i­ta­tion, but if I’m alone, it might take years to make my­self heard,” says Singh. “But if a [star] like Ak­shay Ku­mar says it through a film, the reach in­creases ex­po­nen­tially.”

Trade ex­pert Atul Mo­han feels that mul­ti­plexes can be thanked for the in­creased de­mand for such sub­jects. He says, “How long can we serve the view­ers with tra­di­tional ro­mance and ac­tion? Peo­ple want to ex­plore more. Busi­ness to­day is highly de­pen­dent on mul­ti­plexes, and re­al­is­tic sub­jects are the need of the hour.”

Aanand L. Rai, who has pro­duced the film Shubh Man­gal Saavd­han, says that the rea­son he chose the taboo sub­ject of erec­tile dys­func­tion, or im­po­tence, was to break the no­tion that the In­dian mid­dle­class is con­ser­va­tive. “I be­long to a very mid­dle-class fam­ily, and I feel it’s my re­spon­si­bil­ity that I should project the change,” says Rai. “I wanted to make a fam­ily film that would bring the is­sue to the fore.” He in­sists that he isn’t both­ered by box-of­fice num­bers. Rai says, “The first thing I see is which num­ber I’m safe at, and that num­ber is very small. The only ques­tion that mat­ters to me is: am I en­ter­tain­ing you?”

Far left: The poster of Phullu; Top to bot­tom: Stills and posters from Shubh Man­gal Saavd­han, Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha, and Poster Boys

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