Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mere Pyare Prime Minister is a story where Kanhu (Om Kanojiya), an eight-year-old son of Sargam, writes a letter to the Prime Minister, after what happened to his mother, requesting him to build a toilet.
It’s the festival of Holi and, as is customary, Sargam (Anjali Patil) has drunk bhang which is a drink made out of cannabis. Sargam is joined by the entire group of people who live in this basti (Settlement). With everyone having fallen in the mood of celebration, the camera zigzags around to show them enjoying in this festive time, particularly the focus being given on Sargam and her love-interest Pappu (Niteesh Wadhwa). It, then, cuts to wee hours of the morning on the next day. It is still dark as the women in the basti go out together to defecate in the open. While they are heading back to their home, they meet Sargam who has overslept and couldn’t join them. Sargam assures them that she will be fine alone. A woman going out alone at night or in the wee hours, especially in India, is considered so dangerous with the reason being the cruel act that ensues at that spot involving Sargam. She becomes the victim of rape with a police constable acting as the guardian for such heinous crime. Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mere Pyare Prime Minister is a story where Kanhu (Om Kanojiya), an eight-year-old son of Sargam, writes a letter to the Prime Minister, after what happened to his mother, requesting him to build a toilet.
The movie is an open letter to the administration raising concerns over the dearth of public toilets in India. And the best part is that there are no preachy instances to make us understand the gravity of the issue. Kanhu builds a toilet, all by himself, using just a few wooden pieces and a cloth. He, then, takes his friends to a public works department office and has to confront arrogant and unhelpful officials. He, even, travels all the way to the Prime Minister’s office with just a couple of kids to give him company for handing over a handwritten letter that innocently describes the issues faced by him and his mother (All it takes is an effort to make this world better and Rakeysh chooses to educate us through a kid). There is no uncertainty with regards to whether the letter to PM will bring about the desired change. It is just a matter of time when we finally get to see that the PM has stepped in to construct the toilets. It is more about the trauma that women like Sargam go through and how significant the issue is.
Devoid of basic amenities and living amongst the dirt, Sargam and Kanhu can live so happily. This is like an in-your-face answer to the people who crib about small things when there are bigger problems in the world. I loved the scene where Kanhu and Sargam sing “Aati Kya Khandala” before Sargam puts him to sleep. The mother-son relationship is further exemplified when Kanhu returns home after handing over the letter to PM’s office and says, “Maa ke liye kuch bhi kar sakta hoon” (I can do anything for Mother) and all he wants her to do in return is to cook the food spicier. In another scene, Kanhu and his friends are having fun and betting each other on some silly games while defecating in open. There is fun in filth. So, there is definitely a hope for goodness even in troubled times.
It was fantastic to see the way the importance of sexually transmitted disease (STD) is exhibited. It happens through a mature love angle between Sargam and Pappu. He says, in a scene, to a distraught Sargam that he thought about it a lot and he thinks it is better if she undergoes a medical-checkup for STD. He, also, had to say to the nurse in the clinic that the test is for him and asks Sargam to get herself tested as well since she is here. It was brilliantly portrayed to showcase a society where a sexual problem with a man is not as big a deal as it is when the same concerns a woman.
There is not much of a romance going on between Sargam and Pappu as that’s not the main focus of the movie too. But on a few occasions, when ladies in the neighbourhood vouch for him or jokingly say if she slept with him on the night of Holi, there is always a feeling that they will get together. And we want them to be getting along eventually. There have been many marriage proposals, even unique ones. But the mutual agreement between both of them, putting forth their consent for marrying each other without neither of them actually proposing with a straightforward question, is one of those scenes you remember for a long time.
Although I revelled in the scenes where Kanhu and his friends end up selling condoms or asking for donations using fake causes, the narrative was such that there was no conclusive thought given to all of that. They get caught by the police but when Sargam asks Kanhu to apologise to God for doing such illegal things, all he says is that he won’t say sorry to someone who didn’t save you while you became the victim of rape. Kids in the slums shouldn’t beg or steal money no matter what. Nothing of that sort could be inferred in this film. That’s the only weakling I felt in an otherwise spectacularly told story, with credible performances from Anjali Patil and Om Kanojiya in particular, that magnifies the problems of lack of public toilets in India and the rape cases.