Govt ad starring Akshay Kumar under fire for allegedly promoting dowry

Akshay Kumar in the ad

Mumbai: A public service advertisement on road safety featuring Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar is at the centre of a growing storm for allegedly promoting dowry.

The minute-long clip is set during a 'bidaai' ceremony. The teary bride sits in the car and her father, also crying, sees her off. That's when a cop, played by Akshay Kumar, intervenes to tell the emotional father of the bride to send her and the groom in a car equipped with six airbags instead of their current vehicle equipped with just two.

The father agrees, and the next visual is the couple, all smiles, driving away in a car with six airbags -- graphically demonstrated.

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi and Trinamool Congress' Saket Gokhale were among those who spoke against the video, a public service advertisement (PSA) posted on social media following the death of former Tata Sons chairperson Cyrus Mistry in a car crash earlier this month.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had posted the video on Twitter in a bid to promote travelling in a vehicle with six airbags.

The ministry spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment. However, a source close to the development told PTI that the advertisement does not talk about dowry. PTI reached out to Kumar's representatives for a comment, but the calls did not elicit any official response.

"This is such a problematic advertisement. Who passes such creatives? Is the government spending money to promote the safety aspect of a car or promoting the evil & criminal act of dowry through this ad?" Shiv Sena's Chaturvedi tweeted on Sunday.

Trinamool Congress national spokesperson posed two questions to the NDA-led BJP government at the Centre.

"1. Disgusting to see Indian govt officially promoting dowry. What even??? 2. Cyrus Mistry died because the road design was faulty. That spot is an accident-prone area," he wrote.

The video was an "amazing way to deflect responsibility by pushing for 6 air bags (& expensive cars) instead of fixing roads", added Gokhale in his tweet.

The ad comes a month after the release of Kumar's film "Raksha Bandhan", which focused on dowry culture, something the actor likened to "extortion" during its promotions.

How the mighty have fallen, asked a Twitter user.

"WHAT an inglorious fall for this worm. Reduced to crawling like this. In an ad so stupid that it should never have crawled out of the WhatsApp sewer that it belonged to," he wrote on Twitter and described himself as a former Akshay Kumar fan.

Another Twitter user said the advertisement was "crass".

"The ad about the bride's car having just 2 airbags starring Akshay kumar is crass.. an obvious reference to Cyrus Mistry's unfortunate accident. The subject of airbags can be treated with more sensitivity."

Kumar is the 'poster man' of several PSAs, including the anti-smoking and pro-sanitary napkin ad which is mandatorily played in cinema halls before the screening of all films that have smoking scenes.

In 2018, the actor also starred in another road safety ad -- the 'Sadak Suraksha Jeevan Raksha' campaign -- for the Transport Ministry.

After severe social media backlash in April, Kumar had apologised to his fans for featuring in an advertising campaign of a paan masala brand and said he was withdrawing his association with the company.


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