New Delhi: Food delivery app Zomato has come under severe criticism after social media users accused its latest ad campaign of a dehumanising portrayal of a Dalit character called ‘Kachra’ (waste) from the 2001 film Lagaan.
Under fire, the company pulled the ad, which was titled ‘Recycling Kachra’, from all its social media channels and issued an apology for “hurting the sentiments of certain communities and individuals”.
The company claims that the ad campaign, launched to coincide with World Environment Day on June 5, was aimed at promoting cleanliness, reducing food wastage, and recycling plastic waste to save the planet. It features Aditya Lakhia, who played the character of ‘Kachra’ in Lagaan, to represent different inanimate objects in the Zomato ad: a paperweight, a table, a flower pot, a hand towel, a jacket, and a lamp, among others. There are accompanying lines in the text, which say it takes 9-12 kgs of Kachra to make a hand towel, 1 kg to 2 kg to make a paperweight, 45 kg to 55 kg to make a table, and so on. The ad ends with the hashtag #Let’srecycleKachra.
Several social media users pointed out that even at the time of the release of Lagaan in 2001, many had opposed the idea of naming a Dalit character ‘Kachra’ and said that for Zomato to use that very character to represent lifeless objects in its ad is appalling.
Filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan took to Twitter to call out the “dehumanised voiceless depiction” of Dalit characters. “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!” he wrote on Twitter.
Another user wrote, “Casteist idea by Zomato to make an advertisement and humiliate a marginalised character ‘Kachra'”.
Yet another user called the ad an “uncomfortable watch”, tagging Zomato and sharing the now-deleted ad.
In response to the backlash, Zomato took to Twitter to apologise for “unintentionally” hurting the sentiments of certain communities and individuals.