Mohanlal under Indian Army scanner for uniform misuse in tourism ad

MUMBAI: Two years after feting him with honorary Lieutenant Colonel’s rank, the Territorial Army has taken serious note of reports that Malayalam movie star Mohanlal had allegedly misused his uniform for commercial purposes in Kerala government advertisements to promote tourism. The actor has denied the allegation.

Officers at the Army Headquarters here said they have received reports that Mohanlal, considered to be one of Kerala’s topmost film actor, had passed off as a war hero in a television advertisement aired in December 2010 and January 2011 during the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival promoted by the state’s tourism department.

This, the officers said, was against the rules under which he was conferred the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2009. The honorary rank conferment rules stipulate that the uniform be worn only on ceremonial occasions, while on training with his Territorial Army unit, and at official functions.

The honorary rank is conferred by the army on achievers to have them as role models and inspire the country’s youth to join the armed forces.

The army has in the recent years also conferred the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel on India’s leading sportspersons, including 1983 World Cup winning Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev, 2011 World Cup winning cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra.

The reports had suggested that Mohanlal had in a series of advertisements presented himself in army uniform, claiming to be a 1971 war hero, a National Security Guard (NSG) commando, a gallantry medal winner and a recipient of the army chief’s commendation card.

He was reportedly paid Rs.50 lakh for the advertisement shot by his own production house, Ashirwad Films.

The advertisements were noticed by a retired army Brigadier, who is reported to have lodged a complaint with the army in this regard.

Mohanlal said the costume used in the advertisement for the Kerala tourism department was the one he had worn for his role in the Malayalam film Kandahar.

"It’s just like any film hoarding and it has got nothing to do with the Lt. Col. uniform in the Territorial Army. You should also see that the advertisement mentions my character in the film. In fact, I did this for the Kerala government and I have not collected any professional fees for it," said Mohanlal.