NEW DELHI, July 12, (RTRS): Bollywood is bucking the trend of its usual lavish landscaped song-and-dance romantic comedies to take on the more serious issue of open defecation in India with the release of “Toilet: A Love Story”, the film’s promoters said on Tuesday.
The film, starring one of Hindi cinema’s most popular actors Akshay Kumar, is to be released on Aug. 11 and will be the world’s first feature film focusing on poor sanitation and toilets, and challenging age-old social beliefs on defecation.
“‘Toilet: A Love Story’ draws its premise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (or “Clean India Campaign”) initiative to improve sanitation across India and the very real problem of open defecation,” said a statement from Sterling Media, the film’s public relations agency.
“The film is set to make a large impact in India, with the trailer for the film receiving over 25 million viewers in just two days of its release online,” the statement added.
Modi has prioritised sanitation since sweeping to power in 2014 and aims to provide toilets for all and end open defecation in the country by 2019. But the task is mammoth.
Around 76 million Indians need improved water sources and 770 million require proper toilets, according to WaterAid. As a result, 68,000 children under five die annually due to diarrhoeal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.
As well as being a major health, hygiene and environmental concern, open defecation also leaves women and girls at risk of sexual assault.
“Toilet: A Love Story” is a satirical comedy which follows Keshav (played by Akshay Kumar) and Jaya (played by Bhumi Pednekar), whose new marriage is challenged by lack of a toilet.
Their fight for a toilet inside their home – which is considered unclean according to social norms – quickly becomes a struggle for social change as they campaign for functioning toilets for the local community.
The film’s promoters said the movie in particular spotlights women’s safety, basic dignity and privacy.
“The film is the true story of millions of women in rural India who … walk a few kilometres away from their homes just to be able to relieve themselves,” said the statement.
“At break of dawn or fall of dusk, these women face the risk of rape and/or kidnapping – an inconceivable threat for most of us when routinely going to the toilet,” it added.
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures has secured worldwide distribution rights for Lysa Heslov’s documentary “Served Like a Girl,” Variety has learned exclusively.
The movie, which marks Heslov’s feature directorial debut, premiered this year at South by Southwest. ESMP is targeting a mid-August theatrical debut, followed by a digital/DVD release through its digital distribution unit, Freestyle Digital Media, timed with Veterans Day on Nov 11.
Heslov’s film explores the complexity of female veterans’ lives and identities through the Ms Veteran America competition. It attempts to put a spotlight on the military mantra of “adapt and overcome” through the moment when a female veteran must transition from military to civilian life.
The first single from the soundtrack — Pat Benatar’s “Dancing Through the Wreckage” — will be released through We Are Here Music on Sept 1. Benatar co-wrote the track with Grammy-nominated songwriter Linda Perry and Neil Giraldo. The complete soundtrack will be available on Nov 11.
ESMP’s first theatrical release, Mandy Moore’s action-drama “47 Meters Down,” has generated more than $38 million at the domestic box office in less than a month.
“We’re very excited to work with Lysa Heslov on her directorial debut,” said Byron Allen, chairman and CEO of Entertainment Studios. “This very important film sheds light on the post-deployment experience of female soldiers who are real American heroes, and unfortunately overlooked.”
The deal was negotiated by Freestyle Digital Media acquisitions director Rachel Koehler with Kevin Iwashina of Preferred Content.