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Why pan masala brands left a bad taste in the mouth for Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar has stepped down as one of the brand ambassadors of Vimal after there was an online uproar about him promoting the brand.

By: Entertainment Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 22, 2022 7:27:31 am
akshay kumarAkshay Kumar in a still from Vimal ad. (Photo: Vimal Elaichi/YouTube)

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar stepped back from being one of the brand ambassadors of Vimal Elaichi after facing backlash on social media. Kumar issued a statement where he apologised to his fans for his participation in the ad, considered surrogate advertisement. He said while ‘he has not and will not endorse tobacco’, he respects the ‘outpouring of your feelings in light of my association with Vimal Elaichi.”

It is important to note that advertising for tobacco products in India is banned. However, the brands that sell banned products indulge in surrogate advertising, which means that they advertise for other products like elaichi, mineral water, soda, among others under their brand name.

Why the uproar over Akshay Kumar’s appearance?

Akshay’s apology came after the advertisement featuring him alongside Vimal’s other brand ambassadors – Ajay Devgn and Shah Rukh Khan — began airing in April. Soon after, an old video clip of Akshay denouncing gutkha advertising went viral. In the viral video, the actor can be heard saying that he had been offered a lot of money for endorsing such products, but he had taken the moral high road. “A lot of gutkha companies offer me exorbitant amounts of money, but it’s not about the money. I won’t do anything wrong,” he is heard saying at a gathering to promote Swastha Bharat.

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Why do some actors choose to get associated with these products?

Ajay Devgn, who has been associated with Vimal for years now, told indianexpress.com in a recent interview that it was a “personal choice.” He added that if certain products are considered “wrong”, “they should not be sold.” “When you do something, you also see how harmful it would be. Somethings are harmful, some are not. I would say it without naming it because I don’t want to promote it; I was doing elaichi (ad). What I feel is more than advertisements, if certain things are so wrong, then they should not be sold,” he said.

Many film actors have been involved in surrogate advertising of banned products for decades now. Ranveer Singh, Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, Sunny Deol, Tiger Shroff, Mahesh Babu, Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta have all, at one time or another, been the face of one of the pan masala brands that indulge in surrogate advertising. Amitabh Bachchan landed into a controversy when he became the face of Kamla Pasand, a pan masala brand.

The outcry over Amitabh Bachchan’s association with pan masala brand

Facing criticism for endorsing a pan masala brand, Amitabh Bachchan’s office issued a statement saying “he wasn’t aware that it falls under surrogate advertising.” The statement also mentioned that Bachchan had terminated the contract and returned the amount he received from the brand. But prior to backing out of the deal, when a fan asked Amitabh Bachchan on Facebook as to why he was the face of a pan masala brand, Bachchan had said, “If some people are getting benefits from an industry, we should not think as to ‘why am I getting associated with it?’ If it is an industry, then we too should think of it as our industry. Now, you may think that I should not be doing it, but I get paid for it.”

Foreign actors have endorsed similar brands

Not just Indian actors, Irish actor Pierce Brosnan also promoted a similar brand in 2018, drawing the ire of the Delhi government. The actor later said that he was not aware of the nature of the product he was promoting via surrogate advertising. “In a written reply to the Delhi State Tobacco Control Cell, the actor stated that he was cheated by the company as the latter did not disclose the hazardous nature of the product and other terms and conditions of the contract of advertisement,” Additional Director (Health) SK Arora had told PTI.

In his response, the James Bond actor had also mentioned that his legal contract with the company was over and he “was ready to extend all kinds of support and cooperation” against such campaigns.

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