4 years, 800 toilets—Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's tryst with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

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It's not every day that we come across people like Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. Not only has he directed a film on a topic that is rarely talked about—toilets—but has proved to be a doer, not a talker. Despite his celebrity status, he has spent the last four years building 800 toilets in slum areas without attracting any media attention.

Rakeysh is currently working on a film titled Mere Pyare Prime Minister. Set in Mumbai, it addresses the issue of toilets or lack thereof and has been inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. He built the 800 toilets after seeing the model toilets in Sabarmati Ashram. According to The Quint, the director said,

"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 Re 1 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."

He also plans to build 20 toilets in Ghatkopar, where his film is being shot. There will be separate toilets for men and women and a few for teachers working in municipal schools in the locality. He recently received the No-Objection Certificate from the city's civic body, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Apart from that, he has also been involved in creating awareness about the use of toilets and the problems open defecation brings. This he has been doing in collaboration with Yuva Unstoppable, an NGO working for social development.

The film revolves around four kids living in Mumbai's slums, their friendship, and one kid's attempt to build a toilet for his mother. Talking about what he aims to do through his films, Rakeysh told The Deccan Chronicle,

"There is no attempt to overplay or undermine; it's about seeing this world through different eyes and finding beauty and inspiration in it."

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