Hollywood star Matt Damon and Bollywood star Akshay Kumar have something in common — apart from their global fan following. Akshay’s recent hit, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha deals with open defecation in India, an issue that Damon’s non-profit organisation, Water.org, has been addressing for years now.
In an exclusive chat with us, Damon says he’s delighted that Akshay decided to highlight this issue in a film. “It’s great to have stars like Akshay and films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha spotlighting the open defecation crisis, as it helps to drive more awareness of not only the issues but also what can be done to tackle this and create change. Our organisation, Water.org, is dedicated to ending open defecation globally.
“I have seen first-hand the devastating effects on health, the threat to women and children, and the contamination of safe drinking water from open defecation. It’s clear to me that a person cannot thrive and reach their full potential without first having access to safe water to drink, and the dignity of a sanitary toilet,” says Damon, who last visited India in 2013 to monitor the Water.org projects here.
During that India trip, the actor was apparently fascinated by the massive influence of Indian movie stars, and he quite enjoyed the typical spicy Indian food, too. But what he remembers most clearly from that trip is his interaction with people, and he’s looking forward to coming back.
Damon says, “The people I’ve met in the cities and villages of India were gracious and welcoming. Meeting with people from various communities in Chennai, Mumbai, and Bangalore, I listened to them tell me [about] their wish to have toilets.”
The actor also met the people who had been helped by Water.org with building their own toilets. “[They] were very proud to show them to us,” says Damon. “This is what sticks out for me… people want to have their own bathrooms; to feel safe, clean, and to have their privacy protected. While I do not have a date scheduled for my next trip, I am looking forward to visiting India again soon.