Loo and Behold
Film: Toilet: Ek Prem Katha
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Sudhir Pandey
Directed by: Shree Narayan Singh
Duration: 2 hrs 35 mins
Rating: * *
“Is desh mein sabhyata se ladna bahut katheen hain” (it is very difficult to fight with traditions in this country) says Akshay Kumar in Toilet – Ek Prem Katha. Now if only, the rest of the film was to the point as that line, the result would have been different but at a whopping 155 minutes, this one just goes through the motions that are rather loose.
Directed by debutant Shree Narayan Singh, the subject is relevant – in this day and age, there are millions who defecate in the open, for a variety of reasons. It may be lack of initiatives or primarily customs and traditions “Jis aangan mein tulsi hai, usi mein shauchalaya kaise ban sakta hai’ (How can there be a toilet in a courtyard where there is a tulsi?)
But instead of becoming a crisp satire, the story loses steam and drags on till eternity – heck, there are not one but two Holi songs giving it the dubious distinction of being the first film to do so.
It opens on a sluggish note, set in Mandgaon, we have Keshav (Akshay Kumar), a 36-year-old gent who is manglik, so he is forced to marry a buffalo. Other such whimsical aspects of his character are established but the sluggishness though kicks in when his romance with Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar) starts – she is a highly educated girl, compared to him being a school drop-out. At first, she is not impressed with him first but then he manages to woo her after going through the rigmarole. It takes a good 50 odd minutes before we can get to the core issue of the film.
There is no toilet at her in-laws, like the rest of the women in the village they have to go to the fields to defecate in the open, which is a horrifying experience to say the least. She revolts and pressurises her husband to build a toilet else she will leave. Hubby cannot convince his Manu Smriti idolising father (Sudhir Pandey) to build a one and there in begins the crusade which even involves divorce proceedings.
The second half of the film becomes like a documentary on the Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan with way too much clunkiness – facts, figures, apathy from the government officials all of that comes in the pictures with some propaganda thrown in.
The film clearly knows what it wants to say but doesn’t know how to say it and whatever it says, takes way too long. It is understandable that the target audience of the film is in rural areas hence it tries to cater to them in terms of its story-telling, but the rest are left high and dry.
Akshay Kumar fits the bill and with his sense of timing he adds that extra bit to his character while Bhumi Pednekar has another impressive outing after Dum Laga Ke Haisha. On the whole, this Toilet fails to raise a stink.
Blonde with the Best
Film: Atomic Blonde
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy
Directed by: David Leitch
Duration: 1 hr 50 mins
Rating: * * * 1 / 2
Move over Bond and Bourne, we have a new spy in town and she rocks. Not since The Bride (played by Uma Thurman) in Kill Bill has a woman character been such a bad-ass and it is fun to watch her be one.
There is one gritty scene where Lorraine (Charlize Theron, who broke couple of her teeth during filming) beats up a bunch of baddies in some raw action which lasts long enough to make you go wow. It appears to be shot without a cut but actually they are different shots stringed together to make it look like a single take.
Based on the graphic novel The Coldest City, this spy thriller is set during the cold war and though the story may not be as complex as a John le Carré novel, stuntman turned director David Leitch’s effort compensates with style and a remarkable soundtrack which, like Baby driver, has a Queen song in the climax. Leitch had earlier co-directed John Wick and clearly he has talent to hold the fort on his own.
Set during a time just before the Berlin wall came down, Theron plays a MI6 agent whose job is to get the list of double agents from a defector (Eddie Marsan) from the German capital. In the first scene, we see her covered in nothing but bruises and soaking in an ice bath. Immediately, you get the sense that she is one cool lady. The whole story is told in flashbacks as she narrates to her bosses (Toby Jones, John Goodman) how the events unfolded.
He brief, as is every spy’s, is to trust no one. She meets her partner in the Berlin, Percival (James McAvoy) is supposed to be helping her with the logistics, could he be a double agent. Then there is the French spy (Sofia Boutella) who is also looking for the list – the Brit spy shares professional as well as personal chemistry with her and there is no doubt about the sexual orientation of either of them.
While the basic story may not have too many twists and turns, the atmospheric settings of that period and the characters make up for it. Theron looks chic, cold and the effort she put in to do all those stunts shows. After Mad Max, this is yet another superlative performance from the South African actress. It will be a pity if we don’t see more of her playing the same character again. Meanwhile, relish this Atomic Blonde.