My blood boils for their health, safety, comfort: Akshay Kumar

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Since his first film “Saugandh” in 1991, Akshay Kumar has come a long way when it comes to the types of films he has done in the Hindi Film Industry.

Starting off his career with films like “Khiladi,” “Yeh Dillagi” and “Aflatoon” in the 1990s, Kumar went onto doing more comic roles in films like “Hera Pheri,” “Aawara Paagal Deewana” and “Garam Masala” in the early 2000s.

The Bollywood actor is also known to play heart-touching characters as well as star in films such as “Namastey London,” “Bhool Bhoolaiya” and “OMG – Oh My God,” where the content of the film was the king.

Lately Kumar is being seen in more serious films like “AirLift” and “Rustom” which took us back to important historical events and now he is focusing on a major social issue: the toilet.

Having already done a few mind-changing films in the past, Kumar’s upcoming film “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha,” concentrates on the particular problem that one faces while living in a village; not having a sufficient toilet in the house and how they have to go to the bathroom in the fields, which is unsanitary especially for women.

Excerpts of an email interview by News India Times with Kumar about the film and the topic.

Q: What made you want to do this film?

A: Issues such as the open-defecation crisis in India are serious issues that need addressing in our country; they are stories that need to be told, facts that need to be heard and circumstances that need to change. What better way for people to become more aware than through the medium of entertainment?

My film “AirLift” for example was a patriotic historical event that hardly anyone knew about in our country, but now that story is going to be told in every history class throughout India. The Guinness Book of records has been Googled in India more than ever since my film brought to light its record of being the biggest Air Evacuation in the history of mankind during the Gulf War in Kuwait; a proud moment in history that had been forgotten through lack of awareness.

The same goes for “Toilet.” This subject is crucial to India’s health and sanitation, our state of living even in the 21st century, but more importantly how this film affects the majority of women in this country, the country that we call our Motherland, yet our mothers, wives and sisters quietly and shamefully have to live without toilets and in conditions that should be inexcusable especially in this day and age. My blood boils for their health, safety and comfort and I hope these films have a positive effect on everyone and create a change not just physically but socially as well. There are far too many taboo subjects in India that need to be out grown and put into perspective. This is not the Stone Age, if we can travel to the moon and back, we can provide ourselves with sanitation and a newer, fresher version on how to live our lives.

I wanted this subject to be heard, creating a voice about a serious issue while using humor as it’s back drop and drama as it’s driving force. But the secret ingredient being a genuine love story had me hooked from day one, whatever reservations I might have had were completely outweighed by the chance of making this into a reality for the world to witness, that India may have 3D movies but not a toilet!

Q: How important is this film to you?

A: The subject is so strong, but without commercial viability, it will not be able to spread as far and wide as is necessary and something like “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” needs to be heard from every corner not only in India, but the entire globe!! The writers are so creative that this love story is all it needed to go from an unforgettable real life marital crisis to an important revolutionary subject; A love story based on the Pot.

I am doing all I can to make sure this film is seen by the very people it affects and by the very people who can do something about it. I just need as much support and good wishes for this “hopefully” life changing venture for the people of India, inside and out.

Q: What message are you trying to portray in this film?

A: ‘Toilet’ is crucial to India’s health and sanitation, our state of living even in the 21st century, but more importantly how this film affects the majority of women in this country; the country that we call our Motherland, yet our mothers, wives and sisters quietly and shamefully have to live without toilets and in conditions that should be inexcusable especially in this day and age. My blood boils for their health, safety and comfort.

Fields are for crops. If certain societies say it’s revolting to have a toilet in a home where food is cooked, please, they need to be made aware that defecating in fields where food is grown is far more unethical. This is where I trust in the youth of today. They need to take the old ways and turn them into new and improved ways of living, in the most respectable and influential manner possible. For me it starts with cinema and I hope these films have a positive effect on everyone and create a change not just physically but socially as well.

Q: The title of the film is very unique, who came up with it?

A: It definitely has nothing but a Desi Heart, in fact I wanted to originally call it “Desi Toilet,” but I’m glad we settled for “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” because that is what it truly is, before it’s anything to preach about.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the plot/story line of the film?

A: “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” is the world’s first feature film on the open-defecation crisis. The USP of the film is the love story between Bhumi and my character – that is what has made this subject so strong, without our love, without our separation, the will to give my wife in the film what she rightly deserves would never have crossed my naïve mind.

Q: What made you cast Bhumi Pednekar as the female lead?

A: Well Bhumi has shown nothing but disciplined courage when it comes to her choice of films, she was brave enough to take on this role without batting an eyelid, for she isn’t interested in being a typical actress, she is here to make a difference and show that you don’t need to be a Barbie doll to be an actress. India is full of extremely talented actresses and I’m hoping Bhumi receives as much success with this film as her last because I genuinely want the industry to be filled with talent and not just beauty.

Q: What is your next project after “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha?”

A: I am currently working on a film called “Gold,” the historic story of India’s first Olympic medal post the nation’s independence. I also have “Padman” coming up which is the world’s first feature film on menstrual hygiene as well as the sci-film feature “2.0” with Rajnikanth Sir.

The film is set to release on August 11.

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