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World & Nation

James Bond wouldn’t use this Indian breath freshener, and Pierce Brosnan says he wouldn’t either

Pierce Brosnan India
Pierce Brosnan has demanded an Indian company remove his image from ads for pan masala, a breath freshener that has been linked to cancer.
(Dominique Faget / AFP/Getty Images)

An ad for a breath freshener in India has left Pierce Brosnan both shaken and stirred.

The former James Bond star has objected to the “unauthorized and deceptive use” of his image in a marketing campaign for Pan Bahar, a brand of the Indian-made mouth freshener called pan masala.

Brosnan said he had signed a contract to endorse a “breath freshener/tooth whitener” with “all natural ingredients.”

But chewing pan masala – usually sold as a mixture of betel leaf, areca nut, clove, cardamom and tobacco – turns users’ saliva blood-red saliva, which they then spit out and is a main reason for the proliferation of “No Spitting” signs across Indian cities.

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Doctors say pan masala has been linked to mouth cancer and that areca nut can be addictive. Many Indians find its use disgusting, and it’s hardly a product one would associate with Britain’s suavest spy.

So there was widespread surprise when images of Brosnan, sporting that familiar tuxedo and a luxuriant white beard, began appearing this month in a national campaign for Pan Bahar.

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Some users of social media suspected Brosnan had been duped.

Brosnan was “deeply shocked and saddened” upon learning what he was endorsing, according to a report Thursday in People magazine, and demanded that Pan Bahar’s manufacturer, Ashok & Co., remove his image from all its products.

He was particularly distressed that the product contained tobacco.

“As a man who has spent decades championing women’s health care and environmental protection, I was distressed to learn of Pan Bahar’s unauthorized and deceptive use of my image to endorse their range of pan masala products,” Brosnan said.

“I would never have entered into an agreement to promote a product in India that is dangerous to one’s health.”

Akhil Jain, chief executive of Ashok & Co., said there was “some confusion” over the ad.

“Wait for a few days… we are in touch with Mr. Brosnan and his team and hope to sort the matter out as soon as possible,” Jain told the Mint business daily.

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A James Bond-style spoof video accompanying the ad campaign, shot by Indian filmmaker Chakri Toleti, showed Brosnan using the blue lid of a Pan Bahar tin to knock out his enemies. Brosnan then reads the tagline, “Pan Bahar: Class never goes out of style.”

Indians mocked the confusion on social media, with comedian Atul Khatri tweeting that Brosnan’s ignorance about the product “shows how effective the British Secret Service is.”

Parth M.N. is a special correspondent.


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