As anger grew and the social media ad came under attack for being casteistic, the company apologized via its official Twitter handle, saying it aimed to “raise awareness about the potential of plastic waste and the benefits of recycling in a humorous way”. .
“Inadvertently we may have hurt the feelings of certain communities and individuals. We have removed the video,” it read.
The ad, intended to showcase the food delivery company’s recycling efforts, was called “disgusting”, “shamelessly casteistic” and “utterly insensitive” by netizens on Twitter. Director “Masaan”.
In the nearly two-minute ad, actor Aditya Lakhia, who played the character in the hit 2001 film, is depicted as carrying a lamp, paper, paperweight, watering can and various types of coats – accompanying text describes how much recycled ‘kachra’ was used to make each item.
The company also claimed in its now-deleted ad on YouTube that it has “recycled 20 million kg of plastic kachra to date”.
“Zomato voluntarily recycles more than 100% of the plastic used to package orders, keeping it out of landfills. These 20 million kg of plastic waste, recycled in FY23 as part of our 100% plastic neutral initiative deliveries, can be turned into many items of tremendous value. We believe in the power of recycling, and kachra – the best spinner in the whole of the British Raj – does too,” the ad’s description read.
Discussing the controversial ad campaign, communications strategy consultant Karthik Srinivasan said Zomato didn’t think twice about having the character perform “apparently inhuman and menial tasks”.
“There is a context to Kachra’s character in ‘Lagaan’, and within the wider spectrum of commercial entertainment in India, of how castes are portrayed, and how Dalits are portrayed or stereotyped in particular.
“Coming from that angle, to see the character perform seemingly inhuman and menial tasks – even if he performs them figuratively, as ‘garbage’ and not as his Lagaan character per se – made the ad look very clumsy,” Srinivasan said. to PTI.
He added that Zomato was trying to derive a “kind of sly humor” from the name for upcycling/recycling waste.
The video was slammed online for its seemingly casteistic overtones.
“#Kachra from #Lagaan was one of the most dehumanized voiceless depictions of Dalits ever seen in cinema. @zomato has used the same character and made a disgusting #casteistic commercial. A human stool? Are you serious? Extremely insensitive,” wrote Ghaywan Twitter.
Filmmaker Madhurita Anand wrote in response to Ghaywan’s tweet, “That’s just so insulting. You have to wonder who these people are who made the ad, approved it and put it online without giving it a second thought.”
Dalit historian and writer Karunyakara Lella also lashed out at Zomato for its “Dalit-phobic” advertisement.
“Why is #Zomato insensitive to Dalit feelings? Why is freedom needed to harm Dalit life by humiliating Dalit identity? #BoycottZomato for #DalitPhobic #casteracist ad,” Lella wrote.
Another Twitter user, Sana Satpathy, said Zomato is “beyond disgusting” and that the head of marketing should be fired immediately. She used the hashtag #BoycottZomato and called for a public apology.
Also in the past, the meal delivery company has been on the wrong side of marketing.
In 2017, an outdoor advertising campaign in major cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru showed Hindi expletives “MC, BC” as abbreviations for mac n’ cheese and butter chicken.
The company later withdrew the ad following social media comments.
In 2022, Zomato took down an advertisement featuring actor Hrithik Roshan who was found to be craving a “thali” (dish of food) in Ujjain, so he ordered it from “Mahakal”.
Priests of the famous Mahakaleshwar Temple in Madhya Pradesh objected claiming that it offended Hindu sentiments and demanded its withdrawal. Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra had instructed the police to investigate the controversy.
The company later apologized and clarified that the “Mahakal” reference was for a restaurant and not the temple.
The character Kachra in “Lagaan” is a polio-stricken Dalit. When Bhuvan, Aamir Khan’s character, insists on adding him to the cricket team – the film’s central theme – after noticing his spinning skills, upper caste members openly reject the idea as he is an “untouchable”. However, he plays a vital role in the cricket game.
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