Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Anupam Kher, Sudhir Pandey, Farida Zalal, Divyendu Sharma, Sana Khan, Rajesh Sharma, Shubha Khote
Director: Shree Narayan Singh
An unapologetic propaganda film made to promote the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, this one is both entertaining and affecting. Shree Narayan Singh’s bitter-sweet satire has the bite and persuasion to keep you interested in the long haul and that’s saying a lot for a production that takes pride in toeing the Government’s line.
36-year-old ageing Romeo Keshav (Akshay), a Manglik, residing in an aptly titled village called Mandgoan, may have earned an astrological reprieve when he got hitched to a buffalo called Mallika but his troubles really kick-start when he falls in love with a fiery young feminist Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar) and convinces the highly educated young woman to marry him. They are an odd couple –he a conservatively brought-up, school drop-out Brahmin with General Knowledge smarts and she a progressive thinking rank holder with a degree to boot.
Sparks fly when she comes to her marital home and finds out that she would have to go out into the fields to defecate. Ever conciliatory Keshav tries one jugaad after another to persuade his strictly narrow-minded father to install a toilet in the house but his every attempt gets run down. So now it’s left for Jaya to soldier the responsibility of making the entire village, bureaucracy and government to rise against bigoted thinking and provoke toilet building.
A family issue becomes a local problem and further balloons into a state-wide agitation with newspersons, the village panchayat, agitating women from the village, the chief minister’s office and the family court getting into the act to save a marriage that shouldn’t really have been in trouble over a toilet, in the first place. While the conceit here is a little too far-fetched and blown out of proportion, the presentation of it is not. The narrative gravitates towards its objective with heartfelt sincerity and earnest.
A fighting fit Bhumi, entertainingly persuasive Akshay and irrepressibly amusing Divyendu shoulder the responsibility of holding our attention with warrior like fortitude. Even the character artists (Sudhir Pandey, Shubha Khote, Rajesh Sharma, Farida Zalal etc) in the fray give off their best. They don’t appear fazed by the coarse, baser, faeces laden subjective that they are embroiled in. The writing is wryly humorous with narrow-minded cultural and religious beliefs taking quite the hardest hit along with bureaucratic over-indulgence and ministry level scams.
The characters may not always be convincing but they feel almost real thanks to the ease with which the actors concerned render them. The timing is really sweet and the chemistry between the lead pair is fairly sizzling. Numerous songs (amiable folksy melodies no doubt) hamper the narrative flow quite a bit but Anshuman Mahaley’s gritty, colourful, lofty camera work allows for propaganda and obvious product placement to be couched in editing sharpened focused activism and irreverent devilment. It must be said that the director’s hold on the narrative is supreme and confident. This is a charming entertainer that will in all likelihood bring glory to its collaborators come awards season.