Ajay Devgan is mainly known for two things: The graveyard inside his mouth, and his legendary “Dane-dane me kesar ka dum”. The Golmal superstar has recently become the center of a storm of controversy around some very valid questions: Should celebrities be allows to market tobacco and alcohol products that harmful and even downright deadly?
Nanakram Meena, a resident of the quaint city of Jaipur in Rajasthan, believes that stars should stop promoting tobacco and alcohol products. And he has a very valid reason behind his request.
Meena is a longtime Devgan fan. And as fans are often wont to do, he tried to emulate his favorite superstar – to the point of chewing tobacco from the same brand that the actor endorses.
At 40 years of age, Meena – a tea seller, found himself diagnosed with cancer.
A disease that claims hundreds of thousands of lives every year, and ruins the mental, physical, and psychological state of every family it touches, is often a certain death sentence for poor families who are unable to afford the expenses associated with its treatment.
Nanakram, who is now confined to his home, and is attempting to provide for his family and the now additional expense of his medical care, by selling milk.
Dinesh Meena, Nanakram’s son in a statement, said:
My father Nanakram Meena started chewing tobacco a few years ago and was using the same brand for which Devgn does the advertisement. My father was impressed by Devgn but when he was diagnosed with cancer, he felt that such a big star should not advertise for these kind of product.
Devgan is not the only star endorsing such products. Plenty of other celebrities also sponsor harmful products, specially alcohol and tobacco. This comes despite a ban from the Government of India on direct advertising of such products. Not to be daunted by such bans, celebrities and brands work together to create roundabout narratives that promote these products.
For example, a celebrity may endorse glassware from a brand that doesn’t even sell glasses, but is very well known for selling alcohol. Now the celebrity may very well say “I was just promoting the glass, and not the alcohol”, but the fact remains that no one is going to think Kingfisher glasses, instead of Kingfisher Beer. And the brands are definitely not going to dole out tens of crores of rupees to promote virtually non-existent businesses like Kingfisher glasses or Imperial Blue music CDs.
People look up to celebrities, and attempt to emulate them – a natural consequence of the kind of society we have created, one which celebrates power and money over all else. And that’s a condition our celebrities are only too happy to preserve, spending millions on PR agencies. After all, that’s where their brand value comes from. In view of this, they must take moral responsibility of the power they wield – power which can end up ruining lives, families, and the very fabric of our society.
And if they can’t take that responsibility on their own, if the lure of money is too strong for them to think about such matters, then its high time someone took steps to enforce rules – rules that would prevent them from ruining any more lives like Nanakram’s.