Neeraj Ghaywan slams Zomato’s commercial feat Lagaan’s Kachra: It ends up being tone-deaf (Exclusive) | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Neeraj Ghaywan slams Zomato’s commercial feat Lagaan’s Kachra: It ends up being tone-deaf (Exclusive)

ByVinay MR Mishra
Jun 08, 2023 04:03 PM IST

After his tweet slamming Zomato’’s commercial on World Environment Day, filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywn talks to us about his thoughts on the ad, while actor Aditya Lakhia opens up on his defence.

On Thursday, filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan slammed a video campaign released by Zomato on World Environment Day, calling it “Extremely insensitive!”. The now deleted video had actor Aditya Lakhia, reprising his popular character Kachra from Lagaan (2001), showcasing the importance of recycling of kachra (garbage).

A still from the ad; (inset) Neeraj Ghaywan
A still from the ad; (inset) Neeraj Ghaywan

The Savarna Saviour complex

While talking to us, Ghaywan shares how the character Kachra in Ashutosh Gowariker’s directorial was made “voiceless and devoid of any agency”. “It has the Savarna Saviour Complex of having an oppressor-caste hero ‘emancipate’ a Dalit,” the 42-year-old director mentions, calling it for a “revision”. “It may have been real in that era but the take should have been progressive to include a layer of assertion coming from within the community. Such depiction inadvertently normalises casteism. It celebrates saviours but puts the oppressed in the same cycle of being a perpetual victim,” he elaborates. Ghaywan believes that the commercial - that showed the character as a table cloth and other objects - “proves the normalisation”. He rues, “It is even more insensitive in using this character to make a ‘funny’ commercial about sustainable recycling. It ends up being tone-deaf to depict the character as a human footstool and various objects. It literally dehumanises by way of straight up objectifying. Companies need to have an inclusivity orientation.”

‘Kachra was a strong character’

Understanding everyone’s statement, Lakhia is absolutely “fine” with the ad being pulled down now. “It is the app’s prerogative,” he comments. While signing up for the ad, Lakhia admits that he “never thought that it ( the ad) would be taken as insensitive”. “It is a positive ad, trying to give a positive message. It was supposed to be a quirky campaign and has nothing to do with hurting anyone’s sentiments. We did not try to hurt or smear anybody. (However) If someone is hurt with the ad, one must respect that.” Talking about the character Kachra from the 2001’s cricket drama, Lakhia opines, “Kachra was a strong character. How he overcame the casteism that was rampant in the 90s and came on top was encouraging.”

Video being pulled down

While the ad has been pulled down, Zomato has also issued an apology on Twitter. “On world environment day, our 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,” their Twitter handle stated. When we reached out to the app, they refused to comment further.

Being woke

Ghaywan’s statement has won accolades. While Lakhia believes that “social media has given the voice” to many and it is imperative for people to raise their voice, Ghaywan thinks “woke is a maligned word”. “A sense of self-awareness of our privilege is the base of exploring inclusivity. It’s not a badge of honour but it is about genuine enquiry, acknowledgement and correction of systemic inequality,” he signs off.

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