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Akshay Kumar in Viral Vimal Ad and 5 Types of Shady Celebrity Mentions

When Katrina Kaif endorsed Veet Hair Removal Cream for Women, I went to buy it against all the other product competitors because Kaif endorsed it. Likewise, when Anushka Sharma endorsed Nivea deodorant for “clear” armpits (light skin in armpits too!), I also bought it against other products promising the same, because it was Sharma who approved of it.

This is how celebrity brand mentions work. They influence people to buy certain products. Buying or endorsing products or brands is not necessarily bad. But what happens when the product in question is something “bad” itself?

The last number: One such category of endorsements that the Indian public finds very problematic is the celebrity surrogate advertising of gutka brands. At the latest, the heat reached Akshay Kumar. He became the target of a commercial for Vimal Elaichi which also features two other A-Listers – Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn.

What is the controversy? Now, Vimal Elaichi itself is just a spice product, but that’s not what Vimal Elaichi ads are really selling. Vimal is popularly known for its gutka products that cannot be directly advertised by law; and definitely, no celebrity can endorse them either. For example, tobacco and alcohol brands use what is called “surrogate advertising”. By using surrogate advertising, regulated products such as cigarettes, alcohol and tobacco can be advertised disguised as another product.

How did Akshay Kumar react? Akshay Kumar apologized for endorsing the brand and stepped down from being the brand ambassador.

And of course, he went the route of Amitabh Bachchan on the “oh, I didn’t know what I was selling” trope. However, this 2018 video of Kumar saying he rejected ads from gutka brands due to moral issues, insinuates that he knew how they advertised. Besides, isn’t Big B lesson enough in celebrity surrogate advertising?

Besides, don’t we all remember Akshay Kumar’s anti-smoking ad that talked about buying women’s health sanitary napkins for the price of two cigarettes?

James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan, Amitabh Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, SRK, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn… there are far too many big names to list, who have endorsed gutka brands or brands of alcohol at one time or another.

But it’s not just surrogate publicity that Indian celebrities have faced the heat for. Here are 5 types of shady celebrity endorsements:


Beautiful and beautiful: Yami Gautam is our fair and charming wife. I remember the 5 year old was obsessed with product and fairness before he learned about racism and there is nothing wrong with not being fair. The backlash of this product came years late, and it managed to change the name of the product to “Glow and Lovely”.

Fair and beautiful: Then there was the “Fair And Handsome” product endorsed by Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. The product, despite its racist undertones, continues to be on the shelf without any changes.

Kalyan jewelers: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan dressed in the Indian brand’s finest jewelry on a poster was a sight to behold except for one very problematic thing. The ad showed a dark-skinned slave boy holding an umbrella above the light-skinned Aishwarya. It was not only racist, but with the history of India, it was also casteist.

Kalyan Jewelers commercial with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.


There’s no shortage of these everyday, nonchalantly sexist ads. Among those who received a lot of backlash were:

Jack and Jones: The Danish fashion brand’s large billboards showing Ranveer Singh with a girl slung over his shoulder and with the slogan ‘Don’t hold back’. Take your work home,” was quickly criticized for showing women as objects.

Detergent Ads: ALMOST ALWAYS they show a woman washing clothes, because of course that’s what women like to do (eye-roll). Salman Khan and Prachi Desai’s ad for Wheel washing powder also towed the same line.

Prestige: A woman’s place always belongs either in the garden to wash clothes or in the kitchen to cook. Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s advertisement for Prestige utensils featured a sexist slogan, “Jo biwi se kare pyaar, woh Prestige se kaise kare inkaar! As if the woman was only interested in cooking?


Pepsi: Amitabh Bachchan once stopped endorsing cold Pepsi drinks after a schoolgirl asked him why he was promoting something his parents and teachers called “poison”.

Kudos to Christiano Ronaldo for doing what most celebrities won’t do (when he removed the coca cola bottles in front of him at a press conference).

Maggie: Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta all faced backlash from the Indian public during the 2015 Maggi-MSG (monosodium glutamate) crisis for promoting the allegedly unhealthy product.


Sandhi Sudha More: Govinda and Jackie Shroff faced legal issues over their endorsement of an Ayurvedic oil – Sandhi Sudha Plus, which claimed to cure knee pain and other ailments. The FDA also charged the brand for its misleading advertisements.


Yes, celebrities have also adamantly endorsed shady businesses and financial frauds.

Real estate fraud: Genelia D’Souza has received legal notice for supporting a property company that committed property fraud in Hyderabad, duping hundreds of buyers.

Online Ponzi Scheme: Shah Rukh Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui were named in an online Ponzi scheme case in 2017 involving a Rs 500 crore scam. The actors had endorsed the portal of a Ghaziabad-based company Webwork Trade Links, which took money from unsuspecting people, promising to multiply their investments.

Bitcoin scam: Several celebrities from Raj Kundra to Neha Dhupia and Bipasha Basu in 2017 tweeted about Amit Bharadwaj’s book on cryptocurrency. Bharadwaj is now the main defendant in the GainBitcoin scam worth nearly Rs 2,000 crore. Kundra was also questioned by the ED in the case.

Also find out how Kim Kardashian was named in a cryptocurrency scam. If your favorite celebrity starts talking uncharacteristically about cryptocurrency, you need to be careful.

Moral of the story: don’t buy products based on celebrity endorsements. Most celebrities won’t use what they ask you to use.