Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan said on Tuesday he has never been approached to be the brand ambassador for the ‘Incredible India’ campaign.
Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday that the Panama Papers scandal appeared to weaken Bachchan’s chances of becoming the face of the campaign, the tourism industry’s main publicity drive that targets global audiences.
A source in the ministry said the government has put Bachchan’s name on hold and is now looking at other celebrity names.
A statement released on behalf of Bachchan on Tuesday said: “There have been queries from the media regarding my being Brand Ambassador for ‘Atulya Bharat’ (Incredible India). I wish to state that I have not been formally approached for this position. The speculation of the media regarding its discontinuance is, therefore, not relevant as far as I am concerned.”
Leaked documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca showed Bachchan was among 500 Indian entities who owned firms and accounts in offshore tax havens. The actor denied any connection with those companies, saying his name may have been “misused”.
On Tuesday, Bachchan said those looking for his feedback on the Panama Papers leak can send their queries to the government. “On the Panama disclosures, I wish to state that queries continue to be sent to me by the media. I would humbly request them to kindly direct these to the GOI (government of India) where I, as a law abiding citizen, have already sent, and shall continue to send, my responses.
“I stand by my earlier statement on the ‘misuse of my name’ in the matter and in any event the press reports do not disclose any illegal act committed by me,” the statement said.
Tourism ministry officials told HT the other names in the reckoning for the tourism campaign are of actors Priyanka Chopra and Akshay Kumar. “The ministry is also discussing whether we should have a female brand ambassador this time. A final decision will be taken soon,” one of them said, requesting anonymity since he was not authorised to speak on the matter.
In January, Bollywood star Aamir Khan ceased to be the face of Incredible India, leading to speculation that the move may be a fallout of him being embroiled in the ‘intolerance’ row. Khan had in November last year said that his wife Kiran Rao was considering moving out of the country due to the prevalence of an atmosphere of “intolerance” – an allusion to attacks purportedly carried out by Hindu extremists.