The Maharashtra government has gone from Hrithik to Madhuri and back to him in a search of a face for the state. The authorities, who had approached actor Madhuri Dixit have dropped the idea of appointing her as the ambassador after she demanded Rs 10 crore. Now, the fight is between the tourism officials’ first choice, actor Hrithik Roshan, and the latest entrant, Bal Shivba, an illustration of young Shivaji. “Hrithik is one of the strongest contenders but nothing has been finalised yet, so we thought why not have a non-bollywood option too?” says Nitesh Rane, chief of the Swabhimaan Sanghathan.
While Bollywood biggies Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan are busy promoting Gujarat Tourism and Incredible India respectively, without a fee, actor Madhuri Dixit struck a different chord when she reportedly demanded crores to promote Maharashtra Tourism.
The irate authorities are now expected to replace her with an illustration of Maratha warrior Shivaji — Bal Shivba. “It was shocking that she was asking for such a huge amount for endorsing her own soil, her own birthplace while others such as Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan are doing it for free,” says Nitesh Rane, chief of Swabhimaan Sanghathan, a Mumbai-based NGO. Recently Nitesh, son of former Maharashtra chief minister, Narayan Rane wrote on microblogging site Twitter:
“Madhuri Dixit charging high for being the brand ambassador of Maharashtra is such a disgrace! When it comes to your own soil ... one should be selfless! Shame! (sic)”.
When asked about Madhuri’s replacement, Nitesh said, “Though officials are still mulling over other Bollywood names including Hrithik Roshan, Bal Shivba will give them a run for their money to be the brand ambassador of Maharashtra.”
A brand ambassador helps in promoting state tourism and attracting visitors. Kirti Thakar of Gujarat Tourism agrees. “Ever since Mr Bachchan started promoting our state tourism, we have seen a rise in tourists footfall. And we are grateful to him that he is doing it for free. Gujarat Tourism just takes care of his hospitality expenses and cost of production of the ads and other promotional activities,” says Thakar.