Malayalam superstar Mohanlal, who has been targeted by moral policemen in Kerala over a surrogate liquor advertisement he has done, defended himself saying that he is not the first actor to do such a commercial.
The veteran actor said: ‘I am surprised that those who have come out against the advertisement have not spoken a word on the endorsements I have done for AIDS, Southern Railways and on social issues. Have they ever complimented me for that?’
The controversial endorsement is for a liquor make produced in Karnataka but owned by a Kerala businessman. The actor, who completed his silver jubilee on the silver screen, landed in a soup over a question he asks in the commercial: ‘What’s up this evening?’ – an obvious catch-line for the liquor brand.
Trouble erupted after Mahatma Gandhi National Foundation, an NGO based in Kottayam, sent a protest note to the parents, wife and children of the actor, with a poser: ‘Would you like to see a tipsy Mohanlal coming home every evening?’
The foundation says that explicit advertisements in bars and hotels will land him in trouble under the Kerala Prohibition Act 13 (Section 11) as no direct or indirect advertisement is permissible.
Public health expert C.R. Soman told IANS that nobody can question Mohanlal’s right to endorse any product of his choice.
‘The problem begins when an icon like Mohanlal does such commercials, because he is adored by millions and is a household name in Kerala,’ said Soman.
Mohanlal, who has acted in more than 500 films, counters such theories with: ‘I have done inebriated scenes in several films and have received compliments for them.’
Mohanlal said what many fail to realize is that liquor in Kerala is the biggest revenue earner for the state government.
‘If that be the case, will the government stop liquor sales,’ asked Mohanlal.
The gross sales revenue of Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the sole wholesaler of liquor and beer in the state, for the nine months ended December 31, 2006, went up to Rs.22.80 billion from Rs.19.45 billion during the corresponding period last year.