NEW DELHI — A major Indian jewelry chain has withdrawn an ad featuring Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan after it was slammed by activists and on social media for being racist and promoting child slavery.
Kalyan Jewellers, which employs about 4,000 people across India, said the advertisement featured in a national newspaper on April 17 was intended to present "royalty, timeless beauty and elegance."
The ad shows Rai Bachchan, 41, a former Miss World and goodwill ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, in regal Indian attire and adorned with jewelry, reclining under a parasol held by a boy of darker skin.
"If we have inadvertently hurt the sentiments of any individual or organisation, we deeply regret the same. We have started the process of withdrawing this creative from our campaign," the retailer said in a statement late Wednesday.
In an open letter to Rai Bachchan published on Indian website Scroll, a group of social activists said the image was "insidiously racist."
"While advertisers routinely use fantasy images to sell products, they must surely desist from using images that condone, legitimize, normalize, or build desirable fantasy around slavery or servitude of any kind, including child slavery," the letter said.
Rai Bachchan's publicist Archana Sadanand issued a statement indicating the actress was not involved in the final image.
"The final layout of the ad is entirely the prerogative of the creative team for a brand," the statement said.