Until October 7, 2016, the most ignominious moment in Pierce Brosnan’s career was arguably being lifted off the ground by a dear old lady who eventually saves his life, in Mrs Doubtfire. Happily for him, that old lady turns out to be a fairly fit man in disguise, and Brosnan’s character gets the girl for whose affections they were vying.
There is no such redemptive ending in sight for Brosnan’s latest misadventure. That fateful morning, when India woke up to see his smiling face splashed across the newspaper front pages, holding up a can of Pan Bahar, he went from being the face of MI6 to the face that sells supari.
“Class never goes out of style,” he grins in the ad.
Two weeks of trolling later, Brosnan decided he was shocked that the product he had endorsed was not in fact a tooth whitener and breath freshener, and issued a statement saying he had been tricked into the advertisement. He wanted his image pulled out of the campaign, he said. On learning that this “breath freshening tooth whitener” turned saliva red, and worse, caused cancer, he reminded the world that he had consistently “championed women’s healthcare” after losing his first wife and daughter to cancer. It was news to him that Pan Bahar contained areca nut, which is classified as a carcinogen.
Unfortunately for Brosnan, even invoking the death of his family members couldn’t spare him from the subsequent trolling and the company’s response. Pan Bahar said it had not made “unauthorised and deceptive use” of his image, as Brosnan had alleged to People magazine, but made the advertisement “as per contract”.
To make matters worse, the creative head of the ad agency that came up with the idea of casting Brosnan had already gone to town about his coup to newspapers. He told the media that Brosnan had not only tasted the product, but kept a few cans aside to share with his friends. One article said Brosnan had stood in queue for breakfast and lunch, did not have much of an entourage, and had done retakes for the ad.
As if all this were not bad enough, the gentleman in question let slip that Pierce Brosnan was a lot more affordable than Daniel Craig, when asked why they had chosen a former Bond and not the current one. He attempted a recovery, by amending the reason – Pierce Brosnan had better recall value among the target audience of Pan Bahar, which is apparently an Indian male aged 20-35. The 20-year-old would not have been born when Brosnan first played Bond, and the 35-year-old would have seen five Bonds come and go. Sean Connery was not done with the character until 1983. Having once reprised a role played by Connery, Brosnan has now taken on a role last played by Agent Vinod.
Class had gone out of style pretty quickly, it seems.
The next chapter in the Bond-with-pan-masala saga might well be a legal battle, initiated either by an irate Bond-turned-bhaiyya or a brand that isn’t too thrilled about being accused of “grossly manipulating” an actor into becoming its ambassador.
In the television commercial Brosnan made for Pan Bahar, he spends more time with the can than he does with any of the women who sigh at him. Yet, it appears he was too busy using it as a weapon to read the government-mandated statutory warning about this “mouth freshener” being injurious to health.
It has been over a decade since Brosnan played Bond. He could be forgiven for thinking he would never again see punning headlines about being shaken and stirred, least of all over supari, which is hardly the intoxicant one associates with Agent 007.
The last big coup in Indian advertising was perhaps Hugh Jackman, who has at least one Wolverine movie left in him, signing on for Micromax. Jackman, however, left his mutant character out of the endorsement, and didn’t have to endure more than a few laboured puns on being a MicromaX-Man during his stint with an Indian brand.
Brosnan, on the other hand, must be thinking longingly of Octopussy’s boat, which he arrived too late to board, and the Rajasthani palaces that would have been more suitable for an exotic Indian James Bond adventure than a stint with supari.
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