Communism and Coca Cola do not mix well, Malayalam superstar Mammootty has just learnt.
The actor has been involved in a Coca Cola controversy after he signed a Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) advertising deal with the soft drinks giant.
The superstar has now been forced to rethink his decision to become the Coke brand ambassador in south India after scores of activists backed by Communist parties have lambasted him.
Reason: Mammootty, a Left sympathiser, is also chairman of the Communist Party of India Marxist-backed Kairali television channel.
CPIM leaders have argued it is highly unethical and improper for Mammootty to accept the Coke offer. The company has been caught in a major legal battle in Kerala over the overexploitation of groundwater resources in the state's Plachimada village, for over a year now.
The village council alleges that the Coke plant has been depleting groundwater leading to drying up of water in wells, ponds and canals.
Early this month, Coca Cola had to shut down its factory on a government order because of the severe drought and water scarcity that has hit Plachimada and surrounding villages.
But Mammootty says he negotiated the Coke offer to make him the southern brand ambassador because the product has not been prohibited and 'it is, after all, a good drink'.
However, forced by the increasing resentment against the Communists against the superstar's brand deal with the Coke, it is likely that Mammootty will give up the Rs 2-crore offer.
"When I accept the offer, I will seek a guarantee that Coke does not overexploit groundwater as alleged and whatever water it uses is replaced or that it finds alternative sources without dipping into the common person's sources of drinking water," the actor told reporters.
He said he did not think there would be an image problem because he heads the CPIM-based Kairali TV. "There is no bar on the channel accepting Coke advertisements," the actor added.
But CPIM leaders believe Mammootty would not finally accept the brand deal. "I think Mammootty should not take up the advertising deal because everyone knows how companies like Coca Cola have left the people of a village dry," senior CPIM leader V S Achuthanandan told rediff.com.
Leaders like Achuthanandan fear that luring a superstar like Mammootty into the Coke contract is a clever way by the American multinational to fight the negative publicity the Cola giant has been getting in Kerala in the past few years.
"It will affect our party's image if Mammootty takes up the Coke contract. We will not allow him to do that," a CPIM legislator pointed out.
With the Communist leaders all out to plug the Coke contract, it is unlikely that Mammootty would now go ahead with the brand deal.