On 26 May, on the eve of the first year anniversary of the NDA Government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched DD Kisan, a TV channel for farmers across the country. The state-run broadcaster, Prasar Bharati, had settled on Amitabh Bachchan to be the face of the channel. The actor, who endorses Modi’s home turf Gujarat, was required to shoot for a day. The campaign would then appear on multiple platforms till mid-2016.
Last week, it emerged that the actor, who claims to have endorsed several causes without charging a fee, had exacted Rs 6.31 crore for this project. It was the most he had charged till date. The advertising agency Lowe Lintas, in charge of the campaign for the new channel, had upped its endorsement fee budget from Rs 4.02 crore just to get Bachchan on board.
Given the mounting number of suicides from debt-ridden farmers across the country, the actor received much flak for this. Bachchan was quick to issue a denial, stating that this endorsement was in the same league as the ones he did pro bono. However, Lintas didn’t quite sing the same tune. A spokesperson of the agency has revealed that two days after the news hit headlines, the actor’s office informed them that the actor had “taken a decision on principle that he will not charge any fee on issues involving social causes and those that are in the best interests of the nation…”
The issue is far from over. India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry has sought a report from Prasar Bharati on the process by which the decision was taken. It may be relevant to note that the viewership of the channel has been on a steady decline since its launch in late May.