Actor Akshay Kumar’s latest film, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, is emerging as the biggest brand ambassador of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The film, based on a true story, follows a couple’s battle against open defecation.
The makers of the film leveraged India’s love for cricket to launch the film’s trailer, which was revealed during the mid-innings show of the India vs. South Africa Champions Trophy match on Sunday night (June 11, 2017). The film trailer went viral on social media channels with netizens and celebrities lauding the film’s subject. It has garnered more than 6 million views in less than 24 hours of its release on YouTube and around 7.5 million views on Facebook on last count.
Coincidentally, Lowe Lintas recently partnered with World Bank for the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation and conceptualised a campaign to address the issue of open defecation. Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma are both seen promoting the use of toilets in the series of films for the campaign. The campaign titled #DarwazaBandh urges people to use toilets and quit open defecation to ensure better health. The videos call out the men of the village who continue to defecate in the open despite having toilets in their yard, and encourage women to stand up for this issue in their village. The objective of the campaign was to make rural India re-evaluate its current mode of defecation and consider adopting and using a toilet. The focus of the campaign is to get people to change their habits.
Unlike Toilet Ek Prem Katha, the campaign videos do not directly address the problems that women face with open defecation. But it does recognise the trend of women being agents of change in their respective communities and driving the Swachh Bharat movement. “We wanted this campaign to be one that makes a cultural shift in the minds of the people. While everyone is aware of the importance of the issues women face with open defecation, we wanted to convey the message that women definitely have a better understanding of how important it is for people to use the toilet. We wanted to show that they are the ones who influence a positive change. Women are culturally shifting their surroundings. It is not a case of man vs. woman; this is about changing mindsets of the entire community,” said Arun Iyer, Chairman and COO, Lowe Lintas.
Bollywood celebrities and critics alike have embraced the film. Censor Board chief, Pahlaj Nihalani hailed the film for promoting the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and said that the film should enjoy a tax-free status. He tweeted, “Watched trailer of @akshaykumar's #ToiletEkPremKatha. Based on true incidents, it promotes #SwachhBharat.Should be made #TaxFree. #SuperHit!” From Karan Johar and Anupama Chopra to Miss Malini, everyone has heaped praises on the movie’s theme and trailer.
Keshav, played by Akshay Kumar, falls in love with and marries Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar). When Jaya moves in with Keshav, she realises that the village does not have a single toilet and is forced to defecate in the open at odd hours to protect her privacy. This drives a wedge through their marriage and Jaya leaves Keshav. What follows is one man’s fight against tradition, sentiments, superstitions and government corruption to ensure sanitation in the village. The movie is set to hit theatres on August 11, just ahead of Independence Day. The film is directed by Shree Narayan Singh and co-produced by Akshay Kumar and Neeraj Pandey, along with Viacom 18 Motion Pictures.