Comedian Tanmay Bhat, one of the founders of the All India Bakchod (AIB) comedy group, is in hot water again after decade-old tweets of his resurfaced. The controversial tweets, which made disparaging remarks about Hindu deities, have caused outrage among netizens. Kotak Bank, a major Indian bank, recently released an advertisement campaign featuring Bhat and fellow creator Samay Raina, promoting the bank’s new 811 campaign. However, after the tweets came to light, the bank decided to withdraw the campaign.
The tweets in question include one in which Tanmay Bhat comments on the appearance of idols of Lord Ganesha, a revered Hindu deity, saying, “Is Madam Tussauds sending us this shit?” He also made a jibe at the god’s supposed ability to remove obstacles, stating that he does a “shit job with traffic.” Another tweet compared the idols to excrement, stating that “Feces are better for the environment and there’s really no comparison.”
The tweets have provoked anger and condemnation from many netizens, who see them as disrespectful and insensitive. One aggrieved Twitter user called out Kotak Bank for featuring Tanmay Bhat in their ad campaign, saying, “I guess this is the lowest the brand @KotakBankLtd has stooped to. If their Brand Ambassador has FoE [freedom of expression], they too have a choice to survive. If they want to attract a particular section of society (that follows @thetanmay) as their customers, so be it. Let’s wish them good.”
Kotak Bank responded to the criticism, tweeting that they do not support or endorse views that harm or offend any individual or group. “We, at Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., do not support or endorse the views of actors made in their personal capacity that harm or offend any individual or group. We have withdrawn the campaign,” the bank stated.
This incident is not the first time that a major brand has faced criticism for featuring a celebrity who has made controversial remarks. In October of last year, AU Bank pulled an ad campaign featuring actors Aamir Khan and Kiara Advani after netizens complained that it hurt their religious sentiments. The incident underscores the risks that companies face in partnering with high-profile figures in the age of social media, where past comments and actions can resurface at any time.
The controversy has reignited debate about the boundaries of freedom of expression and the responsibility of public figures to be mindful of their words and actions. While some argue that Tanmay Bhat’s tweets constitute free speech, others say that they crossed the line into bigotry and hate speech. Regardless, the incident serves as a cautionary tale for brands and individuals alike, reminding us that in the age of social media, our every word and action can have consequences.