Alumnus’ commercial supports water conservation

Rajendra Thakurathi, who graduated from USC in 2016, created a parody commercial called “Are You Psycho” to encourage water conservation among students, staff and faculty. He received funding from USC’s Green Engagement Fund. (Sunny Dong | Daily Trojan)

A shower at the Bates Motel may be scary, but wasting water is scarier — at least according to USC alumnus Rajendra Thakurathi, whose parody commercial, “Are You Psycho,” encourages viewers to be more mindful about their water usage.

Thakurathi, who received his master of fine arts in film and television production from the School of Cinematic Arts in 2016, released the one-minute commercial to raise water conservation awareness on campus.

From growing up in Nepal to living in California, Thakurathi said water conservation has always been important to him.

“My uncle and my relatives used to wake up early in the morning just to get some drinking water from the water tank or water wells because that was the cleaner version of drinking water,” Thakurathi said. “We still don’t have readily available drinking water everywhere, and that has always sat in my consciousness.”

In the commercial, a woman, played by USC alumna Uttera Singh, turns on two faucets and gets in the shower, unaware of her actions. As she is rinsing herself off, an ominous figure appears. As she shrieks, the figure simply turns off the sources of running water and leaves her startled. The final frame reads: “Don’t Be A Psycho; Save Water.”

The project was made possible with funding from the USC Green Engagement Fund. According to the USC Sustainability website, the fund was created “to fund student-driven projects aimed at increasing sustainability at USC.”

Ahlia Bethea, the USC GEF chairperson at the time, said Thakurathi’s project stood out among those of other candidates. She said what made his idea so exciting was the fresh perspective, as well as his focus on encouraging people to change their habits.

Thakurathi said when he first came to the United States, he hated seeing people waste water. When he started his studies at USC in 2013, California was experiencing one of the worst droughts in the state’s history.

He said it’s important that USC has done a strong job providing water to its students, but that students don’t think twice about how much water they’re wasting.

“We don’t have recyclable bins all around the campus,” Thakurathi said. “The [recycle] logo was introduced at USC, which is ironic.”

Thakurathi said he wrote the commercial in 2014, but didn’t have the means to put it together until last year.

Thakurathi received $3,300 in funding, which he used to cover equipment and production costs and pay his crew.

He is currently working on a feature film about the caste system in Nepal, as well as a short film focusing on racism in America. Thakurathi said there is usually a socially relevant aspect to his films, but that he tries to make his work meaningful above anything else.

“With this commercial, I wanted to talk about [saving water], but I didn’t want to shove this agenda down anyone’s throat,” Thakurathi said. “I just wanted to gently and funnily remind them, and I hope people do that.”