Source ::: The Peninsula Qatar,
By John Mary, 15 Feb 2007
Thiruvananthapuram • Liquor endorsements by Malayalam super star Mohanlal have landed him in an unsavory situation with a prohibitionist organisation planning to take him to court if he doesn't tender an unconditional apology for "misleading the youth".
Surrogate TV ads, billboards and hoardings feature Mohanlal, asking the question: "What's up this evening?" The actor munches banana chips, a favourite snack with tipplers, and hurling the loaded question at whoever he meets on the walk.
But what has enraged prohibitionists and invited curious responses from the people are billboards inside bar hotels that show the actor, wearing a cap and dinner suit, at a table with a filled glass, a plate full of banana chips and a bottle of the branded whisky.
The explicit picture caption reads: "Our evening programme". That apparently sums up the logic behind the series of campaigns, first with surrogate ads and finally with the caper on hoardings inside hotels.
Mahatma Gandhi National Foundation, an NGO based in Kottayam, has sent a protest note to the parents, wife and children of the Malayalam superstar, with a counter question: "Would you like to see a tipsy Mohanlal, sauntering home every evening?"
The note urges them to dissuade the actor from promoting the sale and consumption of alcohol.
Foundation chairman Eby J Jose points out that the explicit advertisements in bar hotels will land him in trouble since under the Kerala Prohibition Act 13 (Section 11) no direct or indirect advertisement is permissible. Mohanlal, who was shooting in the port city of Kochi, could not be contacted on phone.
However, the actor had said in Bangalore recently that those who campaigned against his advert should rather do something to clean up the garbage accumulating on the roads in the State.
Besides, why should he be singled out when so many other Indian actors were undertaking similar endorsements on the TV, he had said in response to questions from media persons.
"Aren't you aware that several stars do such ads?" he had retorted to questions on the ad.
Eby J Jose says a popular actor should have a commitment towards the people. He is a recipient of India's Padmashree award, an honour that's conferred on prominent citizens coinciding with the Republic Day anniversary.
The holder of such a title should set an example in upholding the Constitution.
Article 47, part of the Directive Principles of State Policy, reads: "The State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health".
Therefore, Mohanlal should return the award if he is not able to do justice to the Constitution.
Eby says the Lal advert has helped increase sales of the product, manufactured by a distillery in Karnataka, owned by a Keralite, the son of a former Minister.
The four-time award winning young, macho actor definitely has a large fan following, besides being a great, talented artiste who sways the masses. "We can only guess the deep impact Lal's inviting poser will leave on the minds of youths", argues Eby.
In terms of per capita liquor consumption also, Kerala tops the list. Each year Kerala guzzles 8.3 liters of liquor per person, the highest in India, and nearly three times the national rate.
The Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the monopoly distributor of alcoholic beverages in the State, is among the few profit-making public undertakings in Kerala.
Gross sales revenue of the Corporation from April 1 to December 31, 2006 was Rs 22.80bn while the figure was Rs 19.45bn during the corresponding period last year and the corporation's contribution to the State exchequer by way of taxes during the period was Rs17.18bn, up by 15 per cent over the previous year.
A report in June last year from Mumbai suggested Mohanlal had been an indecisive, whether to accept the ad assignment or not, especially endorse the whisky brand by promoting a mineral water as part of its surrogate advertising strategy.
The actor had then decided to opt out of the assignment, foreseeing the pain and anguish it would create among his fans.
Mohanlal is also the brand ambassador of the ayurvedic brand, Pankajakasthuri. Lal has also been taking part in television programmes produced by the company, to promote ayurveda in the country.
Hence, the actor felt that, it would be a clash of diverse sentiments, if he was endorsing a liquor brand, according to the report.
In 2004, Lal's arch rival in Malayalam, Mammootty had withdrawn from an endorsement assignment offered by Coca Cola, keeping in mind the anti-coke sentiment prevailing in Kerala.