“Siddharth and Garima’s script for Toilet Ek Prem Katha has been roaming in the Hindi film industry for the past four and a half years,” Akshay Kumar revealed at a press conference in Mumbai on Thursday. “It is very surprising that no other actor picked it up.”
Promotions for the sanitation drama Toilet Ek Prem Katha include tying up with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporations’s clean-up Marshals in Mumbai and rebranding the signage of toilets on Indian Railways trains. “Fifty-four per cent of Indians do not have access to toilets,” Akshay Kumar said after introducing 20 clean-up marshals from the city’s municipal corporation.
Produced by Neeraj Pandey, the Shree Narayan Singh movie sees Keshav (Akshay Kumar) build a toilet for his new bride (Bhumi Pednekar) after she leaves him because her new home doesn’t have a toilet. A tribute to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan mission, the film has been making headlines ever since its trailer rolled out, not only because of its theme, but because of copyright issues.
Documentary filmmaker Praveen Vyas has sent a legal notice to the film’s producers, claiming that the movie copies his short film Manini. Jaipur filmmaker Pratik Sharma has also claimed that the film lifted the core subject and punchline from his 2015 production Gutrun Gutar Gun. While writers Siddharth and Garima have cleared the air regarding the matter, Kumar reiterated that the script had been registered more than four years ago.
The movie suffered another setback when a leaked copy was found on a pen drive. “Thankfully the Mumbai crime branch got hold of the copy before it could be pirated,” Kumar clarified.
Adding to the film’s troubles, a song from the soundtrack, Has Mat Pagli, has been facing criticism for featuring Kumar’s character stalking and secretly filming Jaya (Pednekar). “It is just his character and that is it,” Kumar said. “If you look at things like that, there are many other films that show many other things on screen.”
While stating that stalking was absolutely wrong, the actor also revealed that Jaya knows that Keshav is photographing her. “I am not preaching stalking in the film,” he said at a separate media event. “If you look at it differently, the paparazzi doesn’t ask permission before taking pictures of celebrities.”
Continuing his streak of socially relevant productions, the actor will also be seen in R Balki’s Padman, which has been inspired by Arunachalam Muruganantham, the Coimbatore inventor of low-cost sanitary pads.
“I find real-life stories very intriguing,” Kumar said. “When I meet such people and hear their stories, something tells me that this story must be taken forward to the public.” But he clarified that he doesn’t want to be boxed into genres. “I would still love to do a Khiladi film,” he said. “ While Toilet is based on a serious issue, it isn’t a documentary. It is a full-scale masala film. It has got songs, action sequences, comedy and a love story.”