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Another Toilet Katha

Saturday, March 16, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

Mere Pyare Prime Minister
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Cast: Anjali Patil, Om Kanoriya and others
Rating: * *

The problem of a lack of sanitation exists in India, and Toilet : Ek Prem Katha brought it to the notice of mainstream cinema audiences, while documentaries continue to do so. One would imagine the funds spent on making another film (afterHalka) on open defecation would have been better spent on actually providing Mumbai slums with usable toilets.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mere Pyare Prime Minister has enough relevant material for a short film, to stretch it to full length, means subjecting the audiences to endless shots of people going to take a dump, squatting or returning from wherever they defecate—and one sick-making scene of a kid falling into a hole full of excrement—which do nothing to help the cause.

Kanhu (Om Kanoriya) and his single mother Sargam (Anjali Patil) live in a slum built on encroached land. He and his buddies, don’t go to school, they hawk things at traffic signals and goof around. (There are a few unrelated, and inappropriate, scenes of a white woman using the kids to distribute condoms!)

The women squat by the railway tracks in the dark, and one night, when she happens to be alone, Sargam is raped. Kanhu puts up a makeshift toilet, that collapses on him when it rains. He tries to get the municipal authorities to build a toilet in their slum, but according to the records, the basti does not exist.

So, he writes a letter to the Prime Minister (interestingly, no mention of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan), and accompanied by two of his pals, makes his way to Delhi and to the PM’s residence, where he manages to give the letter to a sympathetic aide (Atul Kulkarni). If he had failed in his mission, there would be no film, so there are no surprises here.

Mehra pads the flimsy plot with a romance between Sargam and a puppy-eyed neighbour (Niteesh Wadhwa), whose idea of expressing love is taking her for a ‘gupt rog’ test, a Holi song, a quick look at the water mafia, and many scenes of slum kids squatting on pipes as planes take off and high rises are seen glimmering in the distance.

The kids are cute, the cast has some well-known theatre actors like Makrand Deshpande, Rasika Agashe and Nachiket Purapatre as basti dwellers, but the film is more or less unwatchable.

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