Bollywood star Aamir Khan, who recently courted controversy with remarks on intolerance in the country, will no longer be the face of the “Incredible India” campaigns to promote tourism as his contract has expired, the government said on Wednesday.
While making the announcement, the tourism ministry also rejected media speculation that the actor was stripped of his role over comments he made last year about how he and his wife had considered moving out of India because a sense of “insecurity” and “fear” had seeped deep within society.
“Our contract was with the McCann Worldwide agency for ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ campaign. The agency had hired Aamir for the job. Now the contract with the agency is over. Ministry has not hired Aamir,” said tourism minister Mahesh Sharma. “Since the contract with the agency is no more, automatically the arrangement with the actor no longer exists.”
The controversy erupted after Amit Malviya, who handles the IT, website and social media management cell for the BJP, tweeted, “Aamir Khan removed as brand ambassador of Incredible #India.”
Khan’s comments on intolerance had drawn sharp reactions from the BJP as well as some members of Bollywood and had snowballed into a huge row on social media.
The actor, who has featured in a number of commercials issued in public interest by the government, had later clarified that neither he nor his wife Kiran had any intention of leaving the country and were proud Indians, but added that he stood by his remarks.
“Non-renewal of ‘Incredibile India’ brand ambassador contract of Aamir Khan reflects the petty mindset, parochial approach and intemperate attitude of Modi government,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged.
“Dissent and difference of opinion have become anathema to the Modi regime, be it of artists, thinkers, writers, scientists or political activists.”
The Bollywood star has been sucked into a swirling debate over growing intolerance in the country with opposition parties accusing tacit approval by the ruling BJP was behind a spike in communal violence, such as the mob lynching of a Muslim man in UP and the killing of two Dalit children in Haryana.
Sharma said the contract for Rs 2.96 crore with McCann Worldwide agency was now over and according to ministry officials, fresh tenders will be floated to devise any new campaign, if required.
“We at McCann had a contractual agreement with the ministry of tourism for a social awareness campaign, Atithi Devo Bhava. Mr Aamir Khan had graciously lent his support for the same. We have delivered the campaign to the ministry,” said Prasoon Joshi, chairman, McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific.
(With PTI inputs)