Bollywood Buzz

When Bollywood stars received flak for controversial brand endorsements

aishwarya-kalyan-759With a jewellery ad featuring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan being slammed as ‘racist’, we turn the spotlight on other stars who attracted negative publicity either for their endorsement choices or style of brand promotions…

Bollywood stars are perceived as role models for the youth and when a brand signs a certain actor to endorse its products, it not only hopes to draw public attention but also build their image. Many a time, however, they end up attracting negative publicity, albeit inadvertently.

The latest example is that of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s print commercial for a jewellery brand, which has created a hue and cry — a dark-skinned child is seen holding an umbrella over her head. It is said that the picture is a recreation of a colonial era portrait by German-American fashion photographer Horst P Horst, but social activists pointed out that it was ‘racist’ and promoted child labour. While the actress’ spokesperson clarified that incorporating the child’s image was a “creative call” on the brand’s part, the jewellery company sent out a note saying that they will withdraw the photo from their ad campaign.

Like Ash, several B-Town celebs have received flak for their brand endorsements in the recent as well as distant past. hitlist points out a few…

No fair play?
A couple of years ago, Shah Rukh Khan found himself at the receiving end for endorsing a skin lightening product. An online campaign titled ‘Dark and Beautiful’ urged the star and the brand to stop promoting and encouraging fairness creams. Later, many celebs, including Aamir Khan, backed the cause and stated that they would never promote such products. However, SRK chose to keep mum about the entire issue and is still seen in the commercials.

Zip it up
Akshay Kumar sparked controversy during a fashion week in March 2009 when he walked the ramp for a denim brand. He raised eyebrows for asking his wife, Twinkle Khanna to unbutton his pants. The brand as well as Akshay and Twinkle received flak for the ‘offensive’ act, with a social worker filing a case of ‘obscenity’ against the actor. The Bombay High Court ordered that the police could prosecute the couple as well as the director of the fashion show. Throughout this controversy, Akshay refused to apologise, saying it was a spontaneous act and not vulgar. With time, the matter faded into oblivion.

Double whammy
In 2013, Amitabh Bachchan’s candy commercial landed him in trouble as he was shown pelting stones at a mango tree. Upholding a complaint against the ad, the Advertising Standard Council of India remarked that children could imitate Big B’s actions from the commercial to harmful consequences. It was later pulled off.

The following year, while addressing an interactive session at IIM-Ahmedabad, the superstar revealed about ending his contract with a cola brand after a school girl in Jaipur questioned his endorsement choices. He said the girl had asked why he promoted the soft drink that her teacher termed as poison. His confession sent netizens into a tizzy as they criticised him for making the decision after having “pocketed R24 crore for the ad” and at a time when the “contract was coming to an end.”
Blast from the past

‘Indecent’ proposal
Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman
Famous models of the ’90s, Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman shot for a shoe commercial in 1995 where they were seen with a python wrapped around their bodies, covering only their modesty. This ad created furore among women and animal rights activists. Demonstrations were staged outside their houses and some of the protestors even donated them clothes to cover up. The ad was then pulled off and the models were booked for indecency.

Under fire
Bipasha Basu and her then partner Dino Morea
In 1998, Bipasha Basu and her then partner Dino Morea did a commercial for an international undergarments label, in which the latter was seen tugging at Bips’ panties with his teeth. The ad ended with this one-liner: ‘And you thought your appetite for indulgence could only be whetted by Swiss chocolates’. It was labelled extreme for Indian sensibilities. The then minister of state for cultural affairs Anil Deshmukh, too, expressed his displeasure over it and the campaign was immediately called off.

Instant reaction
Arbaaz and Malaika Arora Khan were seen in a coffee commercial in 1993 which came under the scanner as it showed the couple cosying up to each other. Many felt their expressions were too suggestive and obscene while the tagline — Real pleasure can’t come in an ‘instant’ — was deemed misleading. Post a series of legal proceedings, the advertisement was banned.
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