'Mere Pyare Prime Minister' review: Simple yet drives a message home
The film explores social message of open defecation through the innocent eyes of an 8-year-old.
Kanhaiya or Kanu (Om Kanojiya) lives in the slums of Gandhinagar, Mumbai with his mother, Sargam (Anjali Patil). They live in a small single room shanty but are content with their life. They have a support system among their helpful neighbours, who stand by them, against all odds.
Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra gives us a peek into the lives of these impoverished people, who are content in spite of their daily struggles. The women in the neighbourhood have to get up at 3am to defecate in the open as they cannot relieve themselves in broad daylight. The men, on the other hand, are free to defecate during the day at railway tracks or on giant water pipes.
Five minutes into the film and you will remember Akshay Kumar's 2018 movie, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. In the colourful trappings of a Bollywood masala film, it presented the issue of lack of lavatories in rural India for women.
In Mere Pyare Prime Minister, writers Manoj Mairta, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Hussain Dalal introduce us to the social issue through the innocence of eight-year-old Kanu and his two friends.
As the film begins, it presents to us the grim reality of life in the slums. The children have to find a means to earn a living, while also squeezing in some time for attending school.
Sargam is a single mother and her life revolves around her son. In the first half, there are several moments that brings their relationship to the fore. Scenes like Sargam trying to explain what a condom is or Kanu deciding that he will marry his mother after growing up are endearing.
In one particular scene, Kanu is handed a bag full of condoms to be distributed among adults. With no knowledge of what the packets are, it is hilarious how the children distribute it at traffic signals or to random office goers, watchman, along with movie tickets in their locality, and so on.
When the children sit on rooftops and discuss that the 50-storied buildings around their slums might have 1,000 toilets, while they are fighting for one, you cannot help but understand their plight. The film has a sprinkling of humour in good measure.
Kanhaiya's life turns when his mother is raped by a police officer while she goes for her 3am trip one morning. Following the gruesome act, it is heartwrenching to see the helplessness of the mother-son duo. Actors, Anjali Patil and Om Kanojiya, give us some moist-eyed moments that will stay with you much after walking out.
Kanu now resolves to build a toilet for his mother and goes to extent of writing a letter to the Prime Minister of India and travels all the way to Delhi to deliver it personally.
It is adorable to see three little boys, dressed in the best jackets they have, struggle to meet the PM. But would their wish come true and would toilets come in their illegal shanties, forms the core of the story.
We cannot deny that the theme needs urgent attention as open defecation poses a grave danger for females, who are at risk of sexual violence. The only drawback of the film is that we have seen it before and it lacks novelty.
With no big star in the lead, Om Kanojiya and National-award winner Anjali Patil bask in the spotlight and leave a mark.
Cast: Om Kanojiya, Anjali Patil, Makrand Deshpande
Directed by: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra