Aamir Khan and Incredible India Controversy: Which side are you on?

Written by: Maitreyee Boruah
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In one of the television commercials, featuring Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan, the actor was seen asking viewers, "Which side are you on (Aap kiss taraf hain)?"

The television advertisement, part of the 'Athithi Devo Bhavah' campaign for 'Incredible India', in a nutshell, encourages countrymen to join hands to make India 'incredible' by our good deeds.

Aamir Khan

Now, when confirmed reports (after initial dilly-dally by the government) say Aamir will cease to be the face of 'Incredible India', we are all asking each other, "Aap kiss taraf hain?"

Airing political views proved costly

It is not unusual for any brand (here in this case, the tourism ministry) to end or not to renew its contract with a celebrity, promoting their cause or product.

However, the "divorce" between the Lagaan actor and the tourism ministry came close on the heels of Aamir's comments on the "rising intolerance in the country".

Thus, to outwardly reject suspicion of naysayers that Aamir's ouster from the campaign is because of his "intolerance" comments, won't be justified as well.

Social media divided over intolerance debate

The social media was abuzz with opinions-both in support and condemnation-for the actor.

The netizens were sure which side they were in. Either the country is witnessing rising intolerance, or the whole debate surrounding intolerance is fabricated by opposition parties to create trouble for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's regime.
Aamir's removal from the tourism ministry campaign is just incidental. The actual debate is whether intolerance exists or not, in the ground.

Tourism ministry plays it safe

To douse the fire at the earliest, the tourism ministry on Wednesday (January 6) said they had not hired the actor, but had left it to an agency to do that.

"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. The Ministry has not hired Aamir. Since the contract with the agency is no more, automatically the arrangement with the actor no longer exists," Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma said.

Incredible India, Incredible Aamir

On Thursday, Jan 7, Aamir issued a statement, saying:

"It has been an honour and a pleasure for me to be the brand ambassador for the Incredible India campaign for the past 10 years. I was happy to be of service to my country, and will always be available for it. I would like to clarify that all public service films I have done till date have all been free of any cost to me.

It is always an honour for me to be of service to my country, and this is how it will always be. It is the prerogative of the government to decide whether they need a brand ambassador for any campaign, and if so, who that ambassador should be. I respect the decision of the government to discontinue with my services. I am sure they will take all appropriate steps to do what is best for the country. Whether I am brand ambassador or not, India will remain Incredible, and that's the way it should be."

The actor, no doubt, conducted himself graciously since the controversy first erupted almost two months ago.
However, the ghost of his previous political opinions is still haunting him. Is Aamir paying the price for being a celebrity? Or, airing honest views in a politically charged atmosphere can prove costly to anyone?

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