Former James Bond comes down to selling ‘pan masala’

Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan’s  endorsement has come as a surprise to critics,

The former James Bond appears in an advertising campaign for “pan masala,” surprising Indians.

India has been shaken and stirred by the appearance of a former James Bond in an advertising campaign for Pan Bahar, a traditional Indian breath freshener — or “pan masala” in Hindi — that is a mixture of nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.

Pierce Brosnan’s endorsement has come as a surprise to critics, given that the use of pan masala has never been seen as a healthy habit, as some studies have suggested it may include ingredients that can cause cancer. Usually taken after meals, it is also blamed for red-coloured spit stains in public spaces across India.

While some Bollywood stars have endorsed the breath freshener — the previous Pan Bahar campaign featured actor Saif Ali Khan — there has been a long-running debate in the country about the marketing of such products.

According to an earlier report in Advertising Age India, a directive by the Delhi government requested Bollywood stars not endorse pan masala. “Even if these pan masalas do not contain tobacco or nicotine, they surely contain areca nuts [known as ‘supari’ in Hindi], and now there are a lot of scientific evidences, which prove that supari causes cancer,” it quoted the directive as saying.

The Brosnan commercial, which re-creates a 007-style scenario, opens with his arrival at a stately mansion in an unnamed location. He overpowers some villains, all with the help of a Pan Bahar tin in his hand, impressing an awestruck wannabe Bond girl. The climax sees Brosnan seated on a thronelike chair, tin in hand, saying: “Pan Bahar: Class never goes out of style.”

As India woke up Friday to full-page newspaper ads featuring Brosnan in the Pan Bahar campaign, as well as a TV spot, the actor was trolled on Twitter.

“How the mighty have fallen,” said a Twitter user.

Some users posted pictures of Brosnan in the print ads Photoshopped with red spit stains.

Others suggested Brosnan had to be desperate to do such a campaign, with some joking it must have been the result of post-Brexit economic concerns. “Pierce Brosnan is down to endorsing pan — Brexit clearly is much more severe than it appears,” said another post.

Brosnan’s Pan Bahar association is in contrast to his earlier Indian campaigns for international companies, such as U.K. men’s suit brand Reid & Taylor. Given that India was under British rule for over two centuries until freedom was gained in 1947, the colonial past between the two countries also inspired some tweets.

“When James Bond starts selling ‘pan,’ you know the empire really has struck back,” said another post.

“You know that the [British] empire has really fallen when James Bond starts endorsing Pan Bahar,” added another.

Brosnan and Pan Bahar have not yet commented on the backlash.

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