He decimated villains everywhere else but James Bond lost a moral battle at the Indian front

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8 October 2016: Just when the world thought the classy actor had gone out of style, Pierce Brosnan is back with a vengeance. This time, he is not chasing villains in North Korea but is playing the villain himself by trying to hook a cancer-causing mouth freshener to millions of Indians across the subcontinent.

Once again, he is all over television with his usual antics with femme fatale and suited baddies. Mr Bond’s tactics are familiar but he has gone somewhat rogue as he uses his license to kill for a completely wrong cause.

In other words, if you are a person who prefers plain and non-filmy terms, Mr Brosnan is selling pan masala that is known to give oral cancer to over a hundred thousand citizens of the world’s largest democracy as he becomes the latest brand ambassador of Pan Bahar.

Both the print version and the television commercial of the latest Pan Bahar ad have left Indians utterly disgusted. A lot of prominent Indians seem to be wanting to know what was it that prompted the Hollywood heavyweight to try to sell a cancerous product. This prompted the website of a major English-language outlet to ask the Irish man, “Sorry for going Godfather on you Mr Brosnan but what was the Pan Bahar offer you could not refuse?”

Shah Rukh Khan among others reacts to the Hollywood star’s coup on an ad industry dominated by Bollywood:

Jyotin Das, a commenter on the TV commercial posted on Youtube, has a new signature for Mr Bond, now that he has turned Indian by chewing the ubiquitous pan masala, “As Pierce Brosnan is endorsing Pan Bahar, his new line should be…My name is bond (aakthoo… spits) James Bondwa.” Social media traffic on the ad was immediate and explosive on the very first day of it going live this week.

Only last January Delhi government wrote to Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Govinda, Sunny Leone and Ajay Devgn urging them not to endorse pan masala products because it would cause oral cancer to hundreds of thousands of Indians. The request was based on hard evidence produced by researchers both at home and abroad. The cine stars listened, with Sunny Leonne’s husband Daniel Weber reportedly telephoning a high level government official to promise the baby doll would never again sign a contract to endorse the hazardous mouth fresheners. Some who did not heed got subsequent compliance letters.

Pan masala is a mixture of areca nuts (supari in Hindi, Nepali and few other South Asian languages), seeds, herbs, betel leafs and spices. It is usually taken after meals but trouble begins when people become addicted to chewing it throughout their waking hours. Some pan masalas have tobacco in them too, which then become gutkha – even more dangerous a mixture.

A 2013 report showed that India alone represented 86 percent of the total worldwide oral cancer figure. The health ministry’s biggest challenge, therefore, was to prevent the use of chewing tobacco, the report said.

Bollywood stars were known to have made serious money from their endorsement of pan masala products. According to India.com, King Khan reportedly has a Rs 20 crore (Rs 200 million) endorsement deal for Pan Vilas, a “premium brand pan masala” product of Godfrey Phillips India.

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