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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 12:11 GMT
Trouble brews over alcohol ads
By John Mary

Kerala whisky ad
Actor Mohanlal advertises for a brand of whisky
Prohibition activists in the southern Indian state of Kerala are up in arms against a leading film star, Mohanlal, for appearing in whisky advertisements.

They want the actor to apologise for violating laws that ban direct liquor advertisements.

Mohanlal has a huge fan base in Kerala for his roles in local Malayalam language films. He has also had some Bollywood hits. Protesters say his appearance in the whisky campaign will encourage alcoholism.

Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in India.


Alcohol advertising is banned in India. Brewers have used different methods to get around the ban, sometimes promoting non-alcoholic drinks with near-identical labels to the alcoholic ones.

In this case, television advertisements, billboards and hoardings have come up across Kerala which feature the four time award-winning actor asking the question: "What's up this evening?"

The actor is shown munching on banana chips, a favourite snack with tipplers, and hurling the loaded question at whoever he meets on the walk.

But what has enraged prohibitionists more are posters inside bars and hotels which show the actor, wearing a cap and dinner suit, sitting at a table with a plate full of banana chips and a bottle of the branded whisky.

Kerala tops the list in terms of per capita liquor consumption in the country. According to statistics, the average Kerala resident accounts for 8.3 litres of liquor every year - the highest in India, and nearly three times the national average.

The billboards have not gone down well with the Mahatma Gandhi National Foundation - an NGO based in Kottayam town - which says the sale of the brand of whisky promoted by the actor has gone up since the advertisement came out.

Actors Viveik Oberoi and Mohanlal (right)
Mohanlal (right) has a huge fan following

The NGO has shot off a protest note to the parents, wife and children of the Malayalam superstar with a 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.

The foundation chairman, Eby J Jose, says the billboards in bars are illegal since under the Kerala Prohibition Act no direct or indirect advertisement of alcohol is permitted.


Mohanlal has brushed aside criticism, suggesting that those campaigning against his advertisements do something better - like cleaning up the garbage accumulating on the roads.

He also said it was unfair to single him out when so many other Indian actors were doing similar endorsements on television.

But Mr Jose says a popular actor should have a commitment towards the people.

"He is a recipient of the Padmashree award, an honour that's conferred on prominent citizens of India. The holder of such a title should set an example for others," he says.

Mr Jose has demanded that Mohanlal should return the award.

Mohanlal also has a network of restaurants under the brand name of Tastebuds.

He is also the brand ambassador of the ayurvedic brand, Pankajakasthuri. In 2004, Mohanlal's arch rival in the Malayalam film industry, Mammootty had withdrawn from an endorsement assignment offered by cola major Coca Cola because of anti-Coke sentiments in the state.

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