The 44-year-old actor tweeted a promo for his upcoming action thriller Sarkar earlier this year. The poster depicted him smoking a cigarette, a flaming lighter in hand.
The promo drew the ire of Tamil Nadu health officials. The Public Directorate of Health ordered the poster’s removal from social media. Vijay obliged and deleted the tweets. His troubles did not end there, however.
A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed against the star with the Madras High Court (MHC), by the Tamil Nadu Peoples Forum for Tobacco Control (TMPFTC). The film’s director AR Murugadoss and distributor Sun House Pictures are also named in the PIL.
The PIL seeks the prosecution of the accused under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003. COTPA states “promotional materials and posters of films and television programmes shall not depict any tobacco products or their usage in any form.” The litigation also seeks payment by the accused of Rs 10 crore in damages to the cancer treatment centre of the Government Royapettah Hospital in Chennai.
“The movie poster has gone viral,” the TMPFTC said in a statement. “Withdrawal of the poster from digital or social media will not erase the destruction it has created. It will not reduce the curiosity the poster has generated in the minds of the youngsters.”
The PIL was heard by a First Division bench at the MHC, consisting of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice P. T. Asha. The MHC has issued notices to Vijay, Murugadoss and Sun House over the PIL, returnable by July 16th.
Vijay is not the first actor to find himself at the centre of tobacco-related controversy in India in recent months. James Bond star Pierce Brosnan was issued a show cause notice by Delhi officials in February after appearing in an advertisement for pan masala, a popular chewing mixture which sometimes contains tobacco. Brosnan maintains that he was misled by the mixture’s manufacturer, Pan Bahar. He called the use of his image in the ads “unauthorised and deceptive.”