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Interview : “I find real life stories very intriguing” Akshay Kumar

Transcribed By – Paridhi Tripathi

Raising a social issue, Akshay Kumar comes with yet another movie which raises an important issue of the nation. The movie of course is entwined with humor and romance. Talking about his upcoming movie TOILET: EK PREM KATHA, he addressed the issue of lack of toilets in our country and a lot more. Excerpts:

This film was offered to many actors before you and then it finally came to you, did the makers have to change the script in order to take the proceedings forward?

I don’t know why they refused it but I liked it. I know the subject was roaming around in the industry for 4-5 years. It is a risky subject to talk about Toilet and a movie which is actually called ‘Sandas : Ek Prem Katha’ but I found it intriguing and thus I did it. I liked the fact that it was a real story where a woman actually wanted a divorce because she didn’t have a toilet at her in-laws place.

The Swachhbharat campaign came in 2014, do you think if the movie would have come back then, it would have attracted a wider audience?

I don’t understand the wider or larger audience I do know that the movie will be released in some 3200 screens and that should make a difference. I don’t know how many people will come and watch it but I am hoping that after having watched this movie, they will at least acknowledge the issue and there will be a change. 52 % of Indians don’t have toilet at their home and if there it changes by 5% also, I will think my movie succeeded.

What are the changes in sanitation through this film?

The movie has not released yet but I don’t that now people have started to openly talk about Toilet or Sandas. I remember when I had to say the line, ‘Ab toh Biwi ghar me aaye na aaye, sandas toh lake hi chodunga is gao me.’ And there were people discussing if I should say the line or not because it was considered very taboo to be speaking so openly about a subject like toilet but I found it weird because who doesn’t go to the toilet. Now through this film at least people talk about it, it’s a good change.

Whose idea was it to change the title?

I think everybody as a team came to the conclusion that lets call it ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’.

Talking about sanitation, other countries take much better precautions and other things for the sake of cleanliness and hygiene, why do you think we lack that?

The concept of not having a toilet has been in the country for the ages now and it will take time for us to change but at least we have started. Trust me we are going to reach a position where the hygiene is as important as any other thing if we together as a team bring awareness. It’s a shame that more than half of the population openly defecate. I remember I confronted a man who was openly defecating at a beech and I asked him why is he doing that openly as he has got a toilet built in his area. His reply stunned me when he said ‘maza aata hai’. The mindset has to change. We don’t realize but for urban cities it is a much bigger problem as we stay in a congested area and it affects us quicker than for those who stay in rural places.

This particular year has been pretty disappointed where except for a handful movies nothing really worked on the box office as well as for the audience. What do you think is the reason?

Probably the content is not up to the audience’s expectations. Today the Indian audience only looks for good content perhaps that is why the bars have been raised.

For the past two years, you have been doing movies which are somewhat based on true stories, do you have an inclination towards such content?

Yes I find the stories very intriguing and that is what triggers me into doing a movie based on them. Something tells me that this story should be known to people, it has some spark in it which people should at least be aware of and that’s it.

The word ‘Toilet’ is considered a repulsive word, although now they are at least talking about it, but do you think with the help of this movie we could be in a better position regarding the issue?

I really hope we do because I have seen women crying and pleading to me that we make toilets at their place as they have to walk 3 kms in the morning before sunrise and come back again walking the same distance just for a basic amenity. Even if they want to use the loo during day time they can’t and they wait until sunset and go in groups because to walk alone for 3 kms after the sun has set would be risky for them. We sitting here don’t realize how big the issue is but I want that together all of us, the industry and media raise the issue and make people aware about it.

One thing is to build a toilet and the other issue is to maintain them, what do you think is the solution?

Maintaining of course is an issue but I really can’t talk about the solution. Our movie has raised the problem but we need to work together for the solution of the problem raised an acknowledged. The movie is all about comedy; it’s not a documentary where I am giving gyans but it raises an issue which couldn’t be ignored just as easily.

Do you think you being a super star will benefit the fact that the issue will be spread across wider audience?

Yes I am taking the advantage of me being a successful actor and raising the issue because then people will at least know what the theme of the movie is and what issue has been addressed.

The movie has made all the right buzz except for the ‘Hass mat pagli’ which is somewhat considered as stalking. Did you discuss the matter with the writers?

Of course stalking is wrong but here it is not stalking. When you see the movie you will realize that the girl knows that I am clicking her photo and she wants me to take her picture although pretending to not be aware of. Also she does the same to me later. People will have to watch the film to really know what happens and how it is not really ‘stalking’. The girl has her consent. And just on a lighter notes, there are so many paparazzi’s who click celebrities all the time without their consent, do they ask us before publishing it on their publications? Not at all.

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