Unlike the other Indian film I saw at this year’s HIFF, Newton, this film is more traditional Bollywood fare. In other words, it is a jack-of-all-trades, yet a master of none. The name of this film is what intrigued me to see it, so it only feels appropriate to keep you in suspense as you are reading my review of the film. The film is called Toilet: A Love Story, and the name of the film perfectly encapsulates the tone with which the story is told.
Toilet: A Love Story walks a fine line, unlike any I have ever seen. At least, not like I have ever seen in American cinema. This film walks the fine line between total farce and effective drama. Thankfully, the film does not take itself very seriously, and almost presents itself as a sort of parody film, at least in its acting. The style with which the actors in this film (particularly the males) perform their roles is reminiscent of the characters and performances one might find in an episode of a soap-opera. Obviously, the actors here are much better at acting than those in a soap-opera, but they do act very over-the-top. This, combined with the way the music accentuates every dramatic line the characters say, makes the comedy of the film hit harder than it has any right to, especially considering the subject matter.
Toilet: A Love Story revolves around the relationship which blossoms between a young woman and an old bachelor, and the stake that is driven between their relationship by one thing: the toilet. The woman has grown up with a toilet in her house, yet the culture of her spouse’s village requires that women “do their business” outside of the village in a field. This may seem like a petty argument to have between a newly-wed couple, yet when you think about it, a toilet is perhaps the most necessary piece of furniture in any modern home, besides maybe a bed.
At the beginning of this film, I indicated a problem I have with a majority of Indian cinema. I stated that this film is a jack-of-all-trades, yet a master of none, and I will explain that now. Bollywood cinema typically contains scenes which depict all popular genres of filmmaking. This film is no exception, containing scenes of intense drama, romantic comedy, musical numbers, action sequences, and even courtroom drama. While the film has plenty of opportunity to demonstrate its expertise in any one of these genres, the film instead decides to switch the tone and genre of the story at the drop of a hat. This is a very disorienting thing to write into a film purposefully, and I continually found myself befuddled while characters danced and sang just after having intense philosophical conversation concerning the role of culture in rural India. If you enjoy traditional Bollywood cinema, check out Toilet: A Love Story, as you will not be disappointed.