Food delivery app Zomato came up with an advertisement 'Kachra Bhi Khelega' for World Environment Day on June 5. Although the supposed intent of the campaign was to spread awareness about recycling, it has drawn backlash for being casteist and insensitive.
The ad featured Aditya Lakhia, who played the character 'Kachra' in the 2001 Aamir Khan starrer 'Lagaan' as a metaphor to represent kachra or garbage. In the film, he is a marginalised Dalit man who is ostracised from his village due to his caste status. Throughout the film, his real name is not revealed and other characters use the casteist slur 'Kachra' to refer to him. Later, in the course of the film, he is included in the cricket team by Aamir Khan's character despite opposition from other team members. He eventually helps the team win against the British players.
Taking to Twitter, notable filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan of 'Masaan' fame said, "#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!"
The food company in its now-deleted ad on YouTube claimed it has "recycled 20 million kg of plastic kachra so far."
"Last time when kachra played, India won. This time earth will win. 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.
As ire grew and the ad came under attack on social media for being casteist, the company issued an apology from its official Twitter handle and said the intent was to "spread awareness about the potential of plastic waste and benefits of recycling in a humorous way."
"Unintentionally, we may have hurt the sentiments of certain communities and individuals. We have taken down the video," it said.
Here are some reactions to the ad from Twitter users: