4 years & 800 plus toilets – Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s silent contribution.
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra who is making a film based on lack of toilet is actually building them in the slums where he’s shooting.
The filmaker who began filming his next, Mere Pyare Prime Minister, in a slum in Ghatkopar, has now got a NOC from the city civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), to build 20 toilets there, including five separate toilets for men and women, as also teachers in two municipal schools in the Khandooba area.He’s also re-building a community toilet in
The filmmaker, whose is known for his films like Rang De Basanti and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, has been collaborating with the NGO, Yuva Unstoppable, for the last four years to transform slums by building toilets.
When questioned on the subject, he insists that his contribution is “not even a drop in the ocean“. “We don’t just build toilets and walk away but we also make sure the locals maintain them. We’ve been having meetings with slum-dwellers and corporators of the area, urging them to put one rupee in the donation box so that the community workers can be given their dues. The new toilets are as good as the ones in private buildings, with proper pipelines and extensions with taps where they can get clean, drinking water,“ informs Mehra who after seeing the Gandhi’s model toilets at the Sabarmati Ashram was motivated to pick up this cause and has so far built over 800 toilets. “The slum dwellers have TV sets and mobile phones but no toilets and during the monsoons are forced to defecate on the railway tracks. I remember reading a Mirror story about a woman who got run over while defecating on the tracks and wondered, `Is a toilet worth losing your life over?’“
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has now moved shooting to a slum settlement behind the Powai Lake, where the men have been going near secluded pipelines to defecate.
“The area gets water for just 30-45 minutes a day. We are panning to build adequate toilets in this area too,“ he says, admitting that while the Maximum City has been absorbing immigrants like a sponge, its infrastructure hasn’t grown at the same pace.
His film revolves around four kids living in a Mumbai slum. One of them wants to build a toilet for his single mother and makes an appeal to the Prime Minister.
The biggest hurdle Mehra faces is that the city’s slums are built on unauthorised land owned by the BMC so he cannot legally build a toilet as there are no pipelines or water connections available. “But I am working around it at the community level,“ assures the director who plans to introduce a social card next, whereby anyone, in particular housewives, can give two hours of social work a day to the community. These hours will add up to an accomplishment.
With ‘Mere Pyare Prime Minister’ Rakeysh is coming up with an altogether different plot focusing mainly on slum life.It would be a visual treat for the audiences to witness this upcoming venture.