Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Mohar Basu (MID-DAY; June 27, 2017)

A still from Toilet: Ek Prem KathaThat helming a Bollywood project on the subject of toilets could be a profitable venture was discussed when Akshay Kumar announced his forthcoming film, 'Toilet - Ek Prem Katha', alongside Bhumi Pednekar. Now, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is also set to explore the topic with his next, 'Mere Pyare Prime Minister'.

Mehra is quick to clear the air when we raise the question of how his film will differ from Akki's film. "My film is set in a slum, where the issue is more acute. Besides being a hygiene issue, living in those conditions is unsafe. It is a mother-son story which kicks off with a young boy's letter to the PM requesting that a toilet be made for his mother," he tells mid-day, adding that Anjali Patil is set to play mother to a "spunky young boy" named Om. "This is nothing like Akshay's film, which is a love story at heart. And even if it is, there is never enough said about subjects like this."

That the subject affects him greatly is evident when Mehra points to the plight of women in the country. "Women's safety is a prime concern. Rapes are a given when women go out to defecate, as per UNICEF figures. The problem of sanitation in urban areas is bigger than it is in rural areas. Rural India has culturally adapted to defecation outside. In the khet, recycling is easier."

Mehra, who has taken on the responsibility of a social entrepreneur, along with NGO Yuva Foundation says, "We realised that girls stop coming to school after puberty. Along with Yuva, we decided a change is needed. When we revamped the first municipal school, it took us Rs 5 lakh. The girls started coming back. We got donation for 20 more schools. Now, we have 1,20,00 volunteers. By 2020, we plan to install 5000 toilets. Ian Botham has come on board as a patron and helped us build toilets in Worli Village. All my movies have been an extension of a piece of my mind, and this one is the same."