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Thumbs down for Khan

Mumbai, Oct. 10: As Salman Khan prepares to spend four more days in the lock-up, there’s another bit of bad news for him. He may be dropped from the Thums Up ads.

Coca-Cola, which owns the Thums Up brand, is silent on whether the actor is being dropped, if at all, from its Thums Up campaign because of the ongoing hit-and-run controversy, but it has signed up another macho actor, Akshay Kumar, as brand ambassador.

“All we can say is that the contract with Salman Khan expires in December this year,” said a Coca-Cola spokesperson from Delhi. He said Akshay Kumar has been signed up, but did not say whether it was because of Salman’s current travails.

Akshay Kumar, too, confirmed that he is shooting for Thums Up ads. He said he was not free to comment on the contract or whether he was signed because of the Salman controversy.

Coke is tight-lipped about the nature of Salman’s contract. “It was a regular contract that Coke had signed with Salman,” the spokesperson said. “I cannot say anything more because it is a sensitive subject,” he added.

Salman reportedly charged between Rs 2 and 3 crore for the Thums Up campaign.

Commercials bring big money for many Bollywood stars, often raking in more moolah than their films do. Though Thums Up was Salman’s only major ad campaign, actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan, who have reportedly earn much more from commercials than they do from films.

A top male star charges between Rs 2 and 3 crore for a three-year contract, while leading ladies like Aishwarya Rai are said to command about Rs 1 crore for a campaign.

However, it’s not as if the film industry has turned its face away from Salman. Hyperion, the producers of Marigold, the Hollywood venture which Salman had signed, is watching the actor’s case to decide the course of the film, the shooting of which is to begin shortly.

The producers have also stalled the process of finalising the female lead. A leading Hollywood actress was to be cast opposite Salman.

“We will wait and watch. But if Salman is allowed to come out and shoot, we will continue with him,” said Siddharth Jain of Hyperion.

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