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