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Aamir's Incredible India ouster: Here's where Aamir Khan erred while Amitabh Bachchan didn't!
In a straight u-turn on Monday, at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of his movie `Rang De Basanti', 50-year old actor Aamir Khan said that he "never thought about leaving the country" and that he was "born in India and will die in India".

He further said, "Some people could understand me and some couldn't. Those who are hurt, I can understand their feelings. I would have been hurt had I been in their place because they were told something that was not true. They were told that Aamir wants to leave the country. Let me tell you that I never said this. I was born in India and will die in India. I never thought about leaving the country. Neither Kiran (wife) nor will I think about it. In fact, when I stay away from the country for two weeks, I get homesick." 

Now, what Aamir said on Monday is exactly opposite to what he had said at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards event in November last year.

He had said, "There is a sense of fear more than there was earlier. I do feel there is a sense of insecurity. When I sit at home and talk to Kiran. Kiran and I have lived all our lives in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India? That's a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open newspapers every day. That does indicate that there is a sense of growing disquiet… growing sense of despondency. You feel depressed, you feel low… why is it happening? This feeling exists in me too."

No matter what Aamir might say now, but his intolerance remarks in November last year were no different in interpretation, only implicating that there was growing intolerance in India, with only a slight variation in vocabulary. If you use words like despondency and disquiet to refer to intolerance, it does not change the sense of what you are trying to communicate.

But the moot question is what has prompted Aamir Khan to have a change of heart now? The answer is his ouster from the Incredible India campaign and later from the road safety campaign, after his incredibly infamous intolerance remarks.

Bollywood's relations with the current Modi government have been such that hostilities between the two have made headlines and have been completely visible to the public eye. Even Aamir's ouster from Incredible India and his rumoured replacement by Amitabh Bachchan has become a matter of supreme public engagement and interest.

If you do a rewind of headlines for over a decade back, you would realise where Aamir has gone terribly wrong in his engagement with several state and Central governments, while senior Bachchan was spot-on at the same time.

Aamir's relations with the Gujarat government under then-CM Narendra Modi started straining during the period of 2005-2008, after he commented on the Godhra riots and also participated in the Narmada Bachao Aandolan, making him so unpopular that he could not even get his movie Fanaa released in Gujarat. But, Big B not only managed to persuade the same CM Modi to watch his movie Paa along with him, but also managed to obtain a tax-free status for it.

Aamir had also found himself at the wrong end of the political equation a decade back, after he had signed the petition for denying Narendra Modi a US visa.

Although Aamir Khan was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Manmohan Singh-led Congress government in 2010, he never took a pro-Congress stand, and became the only Bollywood star, other than Om Puri to share the dais with Anna Hazare during the Lokpal agitation.

After the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and Narendra Modi forming the NDA government at the Centre, relations between PM Modi and Aamir remained within the tight realms of civility, with both sides exercising both caution and restraint, until Aamir opened his mouth again to say that he was scared of living in the country.

Amitabh Bachchan on the other hand has rarely been caught on hostile political waters; even though at one point of time being extremely close to the Nehru-Gandhi family. Big B had also contested and won the Allahabad Lok Sabha seat in 1984, but eventually relations between him and the Gandhis soured with time. Senior Bachchan never contested an election again and decided to distance himself from mainstream politics. 

However, his engagement with politics and politicians continued after he was made the brand ambassador of the state of Uttar Pradesh by the Mulayam Singh-led SP government in 2007. During that campaign, Bachchan was also criticized for misrepresenting facts in TV commercials, particularly that UP was a state with minimum crime rate.

And then came Big B's most famous brand ambassador stint, when he agreed to become the brand ambassador for Gujarat Tourism, earning praises from Narendra Modi, who also acknowledged in public that Amitabh Bachchan had not accepted a single rupee for featuring in the Gujarat Tourism campaign.

Amitabh Bachchan was awarded with a Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour on the last Republic Day by the Modi government, as a reward for his commitment to the country and now if sources are to be believed, he will be made the brand ambassador of Incredible India very soon.

The problem is not with what Aamir said, but with the timing and manner which he chose to say it, a thought which has been echoed by none other than Industries Secretary, Amitabh Kant, the man who built the Incredible India brand from scratch, and who recently tore into Aamir Khan for his comments on Intolerance.

Kant said, "See in a democracy, people must express their viewpoints. I am personally a great fan of Aamir. But what I am responding to is the question about the role of a Brand Ambassador. Being the ambassador of a brand gives you a certain responsibility. You can't speak a language contrary to the brand messaging that you're sending out. If you are saying as an ambassador that India is incredible, and simultaneously saying that India is intolerant, then you are sending a contrarian message. You are doing a great disservice to the brand. "

So what should Aamir have done according to Kant? Kant replied, "If Aamir Khan had a contrarian viewpoint, he should have picked up the phone, called the Tourism Minister and conveyed his concerns, and then said I don't want to be the brand ambassador of Incredible India, quit and gone - and then made his comments. That is fine. You can't be the brand ambassador of India and then say India is intolerant. That is totally wrong, that is unethical. You want to attract tourism or you want to go out of India? No brand anywhere in the world will accept this. This is a basic contradiction in terms. While I admire his commitment to social causes, his comments were totally off the mark. In a democracy, everybody speaks out, but you can't say these things as the brand ambassador of Incredible India."

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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