Asianet NewsableAsianet Newsable

Following backlash, Zomato deletes ad depicting 'Lagaan' character Kachra as recycled waste items

The Zomato ad, which draws a link between the character Kachra with 'kachra', the Hindi word for garbage, was broadcast on June 5 in honour of World Environment Day. 

Accused of being casteist, Zomato deletes ad depicting 'Lagaan' character Kachra as recycled waste items snt
First Published Jun 8, 2023, 4:55 PM IST

Restaurant aggregator Zomato pulled its advertisement on Thursday after receiving criticism for portraying the actor who played the Dalit character Kachra in the movie "Lagaan" as products made of recycled rubbish, apologising for unintentionally hurting feelings.

The ad, which draws a link between the character Kachra with 'kachra', the Hindi word for garbage, was broadcast on June 5 in honour of World Environment Day. 

The company apologised and stated that the purpose of the advertisement was to "spread awareness about the potential of plastic waste and benefits of recycling in a humorous way" as backlash increased and the ad was criticised for being casteist on social media.

"Unintentionally, we may have hurt the sentiments of certain communities and individuals. We have taken down the video," it said.

The advertisement, which aimed to highlight the meal delivery service's recycling initiatives, was called "disgusting," "blatantly casteist," and "extremely insensitive" by Twitter users. Those who spoke out included the "Masaan" director Neeraj Ghaywan, the filmmaker Madhurita Anand, and the Dalit historian Karunyakara Lella.

Aditya Lakhia, who portrayed the role in the 2001 popular movie, is portrayed as a lamp, paper, paperweight, watering can, and several sorts of jackets in the nearly two-minute commercial, with the accompanying text explaining how much recycled material, or "kachra," was needed to manufacture each item.

The company in its now deleted ad on YouTube also claimed it has "recycled 20 million kg of plastic kachra so far".

"Zomato voluntarily recycles more than 100% of the plastic used to package orders, and keeps it out of landfills. This 20 million kg of plastic waste, recycled in FY 23 under our 100% plastic-neutral deliveries initiative, can be turned into many items of immense value. We believe in the power of recycling, and kachra – the best spinner in the entire British Raj – does as well," the description of the ad read.

Karthik Srinivasan, a communications strategy specialist, said Zomato did not consider sufficiently about letting the figure execute "seemingly dehumanising and menial tasks" when discussing the divisive ad campaign.

"There's a context to Kachra's character in 'Lagaan', and within the larger spectrum of commercial entertainment in India, on how castes are portrayed, and how Dalits, in particular, are portrayed or stereotyped. Coming from that angle, to see the character perform seemingly dehumanising and menial tasks -- even if he is performing them figuratively, as 'waste' and not his Lagaan character per se -- made the ad seem very awkward," Srinivasan said in an interview with PTI.

In order to promote waste upcycling and recycling, he continued, Zomato tried to extract a "kind of sly humour" from the term. The video received criticism online for what appeared to be casteist undertones.

"#Kachra from #Lagaan was one of the most dehumanised voiceless depictions of Dalits ever in cinema. @zomato has used the same character and made a repulsive #casteist commercial. A human stool? Are you serious? Extremely insensitive," Ghaywan wrote on Twitter.

Filmmaker Madhurita Anand wrote in reply to Ghaywan's tweet: "That is just so offensive. One has to wonder who these people are who created the advert, approved it and put it online without once thinking about it."

Karunyakara Lella, a Dalit historian and author, criticised Zomato for its "Dalit phobic" commercial. "Why #Zomato is insensitive to Dalit sentiments? Why it takes liberty to hurt Dalit life by humiliating Dalit Identity? #BoycottZomato for #DalitPhobic #casteracist advertisement," Lella wrote.

The food delivery service has previously encountered marketing failures as well.

An outdoor advertising campaign in 2017 featured the Hindi expletives "MC, BC" as abbreviations for mac n' cheese and butter chicken in major cities including Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru.

After criticism on social media, the corporation later pulled the advertisement.

Actor Hrithik Roshan was shown as having a longing for a "thali" (food platter) in Ujjain and ordering one from "Mahakal" in an advertisement that Zomato removed in 2022. The revered Mahakaleshwar temple's priests in Madhya Pradesh objected, saying it hurt their Hindu beliefs, and they demanded its withdrawal. Narottam Mishra, the home minister for Madhya Pradesh, had ordered the police to investigate into the situation.

Later, the corporation issued an apology, making it clear that the reference to "Mahakal" was referring to a restaurant and not a temple. The Dalit character Kachra in "Lagaan" has polio. The upper caste openly rejects the notion since he is a "untouchable" when Aamir Khan's character Bhuvan insists on including him in the cricket team, which is the movie's main premise. He ultimately contributes significantly to the cricket match, though.

Follow Us:
Download App:
  • android
  • ios