CLEAN-UP HE­ROES: AK­SHAY KU­MAR AND MATT DAMON

Ak­shay says it’s won­der­ful that the ‘No Toi­let, No Bride’ rule has taken In­dia by storm

HT City - - Front Page - Monika Rawal Kukreja monika.rawal@htlive.com

As Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha con­tin­ues to roar at the box of­fice, cross­ing the 125-crore mark, the film’s lead ac­tor Ak­shay Ku­mar says that he never ex­pected to win the num­ber game. “I never wanted to fo­cus on the money this film could make, only the aware­ness it could cre­ate,” says Ak­shay.

Glad that Amer­i­can ac­tor and phi­lan­thropist Matt Damon has also watched the film and shared words of ap­pre­ci­a­tion, Ak­shay feels that such sup­port def­i­nitely helps in spread­ing the mes­sage. He says, “When men­tors and idols from across the world wel­come your ef­forts with open arms and in such a re­spect­ful na­ture, it’s hum­bling be­yond com­pre­hen­sion. When you set out to do good, even more good comes back to you — karma cir­cle at its best.”

Ak­shay has es­tab­lished him­self as an ac­tor who chooses con­tent-driven char­ac­ters; it’s only a bonus that his films usu­ally cross the 100-crore mark fastest. “With such suc­cess, you can’t have com­pla­cency. One has a ridicu­lous amount of re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he says.

“I be­lieve,” he adds, “that the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try has the power to make In­dia a bet­ter, safer, and more hy­gienic coun­try to love and live [in]. Just by ed­u­cat­ing the peo­ple some­times via com­edy, you can spread aware­ness on [crit­i­cal] is­sues of to­day, so they can fi­nally be gone to­mor­row.”

On viewer re­ac­tions, he says, “The best part of our jour­ney has been re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion about women tak­ing a strong stand be­fore a mar­riage pro­posal can take place. The ‘No Toi­let, No Bride’ rule has taken In­dia by storm.” About those who called Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha an “agenda film” and part of BJP pro­pa­ganda, Ak­shay as­serts that “not ev­ery­thing is about pol­i­tics” and one has to take charge of things and not al­ways ex­pect the state to act. He says, “Isn’t it true there’s al­ways a few that want to defe­cate on one’s pa­rade? Those few peo­ple need to drop the cyn­i­cism and have a lit­tle faith that some peo­ple in this world just want to make things bet­ter. It’s not only the BJP that wants to clean In­dia; In­di­ans want to clean In­dia also, so let’s not tar­nish ef­forts by slan­der­ing our mo­tives.”

[Bol­ly­wood] has the power to make In­dia a bet­ter, safer, and more hy­gienic coun­try to love and live [in] AK­SHAY KU­MAR, AC­TOR

Gary White, Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Matt Damon’s part­ner in Wa­ter.org — a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that helps peo­ple in the de­vel­op­ing world ac­cess safe drink­ing wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion — is all praise for In­dia’s en­deav­ours to­wards end­ing open defe­ca­tion and clean­ing up.

White, who was named in the TIME 100 list of the world’s most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in 2011, had come to In­dia with Damon in 2013, and vividly re­calls his in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple, who ben­e­fited from the or­gan­i­sa­tion. “I re­mem­ber meet­ing a woman near Ban­ga­lore, who was pay­ing about `1,200 a month for ac­cess to a toi­let and safe drink­ing wa­ter for her fam­ily. She was able to se­cure a loan for a wa­ter con­nec­tion and to build a toi­let through our WaterCredit pro­gramme. As it turned out, her loan pay­ment was ex­actly `1,200 a month and af­ter about 18 months, she was free and clear. Now she pays a small tar­iff for her wa­ter, sav­ing her fam­ily money and time,” says White, who founded Wa­ter.org with Damon in 2009.

Ap­plaud­ing the govern­ment’s ef­forts to­wards clean­ing up In­dia, he says, “Peo­ple want to build the kind of bath­room they feel proud to own, use, and take care of. It is important that we in­volve the in­di­vid­ual in the choice of what to build and it is ter­rific that Prime Min­is­ter Modi has cre­ated a scheme that re­im­burses peo­ple for the cost of build­ing a ba­sic toi­let. The PM’s vi­sion has cre­ated the right en­vi­ron­ment to solve this cri­sis in In­dia and col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Min­istry of Drink­ing Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion, NGOs like Wa­ter.org and de­vel­op­ment banks like the World Bank has sped up the process of mak­ing a Clean In­dia a re­al­ity.”

PHOTO: SHIVAM SAX­ENA/HT

PHOTO: CHRIS PIZZELLO/ INVISION/AP

Matt Damon (L) and Gary White (R) with school chil­dren in In­dia

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