Watch Out! Lakshmi’s Gonna Take All Your Money


Watch Out! Lakshmi’s Gonna Take All Your Money

Illustration: Saachi Mehta/ Arré

Beware people who both litter and worship Goddess Lakshmi, the government’s now on to you. If you’ve ever felt inclined to throw a bucket of plastic cups out of your window, be prepared to see your twenty bucks fly out of your pocket.

In a new Public Service Announcement, the Swachh Bharat campaign has emphasised that littering will be taken really seriously, and warned you that offenders are going to have to watch Kangana Ranaut bounce off with all their money.

Obviously, as Indians we have trouble understanding anything that isn’t explained to us by Bollywood actors, so we have Kangana Ranaut playing Lakshmi, Ravi Kishan as your neighbourhood paanwallah (best, non-stereotypical casting) and Amitabh Bachchan as narrator/Captain Obvious. There is also Isha Koppikar as trash-throwing aunty and Omkar Kapoor as rich douchebag who deserves to have his lakshmi taken away.

The advertisement assures you that the government won’t discriminate between Lakshmi worshippers of all socio-economic backgrounds. (Congratulations, non-Lakshmi worshippers, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Parsis, Sikhs, and other faiths – you needn’t worry. The government of India does not currently consider you a threat to swachhata.) From the middle-class Koppikar who throws the neatest bucket of trash you’ll ever see; to the paanwallah Kishan who missed a dustbin, and his chance to worship Lakshmi, by a few inches; to the fancy SUV-driving, suit-wearing, dramatic sandwich-wrapper-thrower Kapoor. Meanwhile, Kangana makes off on a bike with a pot of gold like a giant red leprechaun.

So what exactly is the ad trying to convey? Simple: You litter and your money goes to an actress. Will it work? Of course mofos, five actors are in it. It seems to imply that throwing trash = offending god and losing money = bad. Not, throwing trash = selfish and unhygenic habit = bad. More proof that we are more concerned about upsetting *insert one of millions of deities* and being poor, than genuinely wanting to keep our environment clean.

Somewhere, hidden in the epilogue delivered by Papa Bachchan there is a ground-breaking message for all non-Lakshmi worshippers. He tells us that Swachh Bharat shouldn’t just be the dream of prime minister Modi but of all of us. And that cleaning after yourself is a really good idea to make India a green country, a clean country. Now where have we heard that before? That’s right, everywhere. And how has that worked out so far? Kinda makes you understand why they went with the whole God angle.

Meanwhile, Kangana Ranaut admitted in an interview that her discovery of Sattvik energies convinced her to enjoy a shower and keep her environment clean. So that must’ve convinced a few non-bathers, I guess.

An older Swachh Bharat ad dealt with people who truly feel bad about theatrical breakups in the pouring rain. In a hilarious video shared by BJP MP Maheish Girri, a man dramatically tears a photo of him and his girlfriend to signify “relationship cancel” and puts the torn pieces back in his pocket. When he’s asked why he didn’t just throw it away, he responds, “There is no dustbin here.” And just like that a million people swooned and promised never to litter again.

So between these two campaigns we’ve covered drama queens, ex-lovers, non-bathers, and Lakshmi-worshippers. We look forward to more such highly specialised campaigns in the future – perhaps targeting cat people, adventure enthusiasts, and people of Jewish descent who work two jobs. And a couple of million such ads later, we might even have a clean country.