Rating – 7.5/10 “Sanitation is more important than independence,” Mahatma Gandhi. A multitude of reasons cripple India’s efforts to end open defecation. These range from a toilet at home being considered religiously polluting to trips to the fields offering a daily social opportunity for women. Toilet Ek Prem Katha bravely takes on the mantle of addressing these issues and delivers a film that is both entertaining and eye-opening. Keshav (Akshay Kumar) is a simple Brahmin boy who lives with his orthodox father and younger brother. He falls in love with the highly educated Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar). On the first morning after their marriage, Jaya gets invited by the lota party of her village to join them to defecate in the fields. Thats when she realizes that she got married into a household with no toilet. As a result of her failed efforts to change her household situation, Jaya decides to leave her husband’s home till there is a toilet for her use. After initial challenges, her husband realizes that a toilet is a basic right for his wife. He then rises to take on both his orthodox father and their village to build a toilet so that he can bring her home again. Akshay Kumar has been picking out socially relevant films of late such as Airlift. Toilet Ek Prem Katha is another excellent addition to his repertoire of films. He delivers an outstanding performance as Keshav, the simple Brahmin boy from rural Uttar Pradesh. You feel his despair and vulnerability in a standout sequence when Keshav engages in an emotional debate with the villagers. Bhumi Pednekar swept the Best Female Debut Awards with her excellent performance as the plus-sized wife rejected by her husband in Dum Laga Ke Haisha. She does not disappoint with her second outing as the female lead. Divyendu Sharma as Keshav’s younger brother brings welcome comic relief to the proceedings. He is a delight to watch and shines in each sequence. The rest of the supporting cast does well too. The songs are perfectly inserted into the film and aid the flow of the narrative. Hans Mat Pagli sung by Sonu Nigam will stay with you long after you’ve left the cinema. The film allows the audience to experience different aspects of the sanitation issue. From the village women perspective, where you get to experience the camaraderie that comes with being part of the lota party. It allows them to escape the confines of their home and also to socialize with their friends. This joy is dimmed with the risks of going out to defecate. They have to deal with the fear that passing vehicle lights will rob them of the darkness that shrouds their modesty, be humiliated by men looking for a cheap thrill and also deal with potential snake bites. From the perspective of a person who wants to build a toilet for the women of his village, you experience the resistance from the deep seated beliefs on what a toilet in a home means. Then of course, you finally experience the slow moving and corrupt bureaucracy that delays change from happening. Decades after Mahatma Gandhi’s statement, change has yet to take place. Of the 950 million people globally who practice open defecation, 569 million of them live in India. Toilet Ek Prem Katha is a necessary film to bring the message of sanitation and hygiene to the masses. Using the Bollywood medium of song and dance, a love story and a big star name, one hopes that this film is seen and brings about social change. BOTTOM LINE: Toilet Ek Prem Katha features powerful performances from an excellent cast. With an authentic rural setting and an important social message, this film is a must watch. Show your support for quality cinema, be sure to catch it at a multiplex near you.