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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sweet Nothings

Pratik Sharma on his award-winning film Gutrun Gutargun, which opens up a conversation about the lack of sanitation in rural India.

Written by Pooja Khati |
Updated: June 10, 2016 12:20:11 am
Gutrun Gutargun, sanitation problem, rural area, mumbai writer, satyadev tripathi, pratik sharma, washrooms in rural area, sanitation problem in rural area, India International Centre, indian express talk The film is about the hurdles the couple face because of the lack of toilets in their village.

It was a chance meeting with Mumbai-based senior writer and columnist Satyadev Tripathi in 2012 that gave director Pratik Sharma and his wife, actor Asmita Sharma, the idea for their first feature film Gutrun Gutargun. “He had gone to a village for a wedding and told us about an incident that happened there. In the middle of the ceremony, the bride wanted to go to the washroom and there was none to be found. Eventually she had to go out in the open,” says 38-year-old Pratik, who then realised how serious the issue of lack of sanitation was, especially, in the rural areas.

It prompted him to make a film that would begin discussions around the issue. A love story of newlyweds Uganti and Shambhu (played by Asmita and Chandrashekhar), Gutrun Gutargun tracks their daily struggles due to the lack of a toilet in the house, and how they overcome it through love and mutual understanding. Early this year, the film won the best feature film and jury award for the best actress at the Rajasthan International Film Festival. It was recently screened at the India International Centre, Delhi.

Tackling the psychological, cultural and structural issues associated with the lack of sanitation facilities in rural areas, especially those faced by women, Pratik portrays the duality in the society regarding this problem. “Shooting a film on the issue of lack of toilets in a clean manner was not an easy task for us,” he says. In the film, the Sarpanch mocks the idea of using a toilet, instead of the open fields to defecate. The only reason he has one constructed in the village is to prove that they are as sophisticated as people in the city.

The film, which was shot in Asmita’s hometown Pandui, Bihar, over 30-35 days, shows many real-life situations. For instance, the villagers are afraid of using a toilet, which is seen as a dark and fearful place. Uganti struggles to keep her dignity when she has to relieve herself. Women can use the toilets either before sunrise orafter sunset. When she asks, “What if I have to use the toilet during the day?” She is told, “For that you will have to be born as a man.” This is their everyday reality, where the society tries to regulate even the most natural processes in a woman’s body.

Pratik agrees that there are no easy solutions. “The situation cannot be changed immediately. It is not a one day job to change the mental state and habit of the people; it will take time.” However he is optimistic. “One day, the electrician in our crew said that he had made a toilet in his ancestral house in his village after watching the film,” he says.

Pratik hopes to release the film commercially this year. His next project is based on special homes for children, which will be a comic take on serious realities within such shelters.

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