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Brand Preity pips Abhi

Shimla, Nov. 29: With the beautiful valleys and mountains of Himachal Pradesh as the setting, Abhishek Bachchan had been eager for the lead role. But he has lost out to a prettier face: Preity Zinta.

The Prem Kumar Dhumal government has picked Preity over Abhishek as Himachal’s tourism brand ambassador despite the recent stagnation in the actress’s Bollywood career.

Abhishek had publicly expressed his eagerness to endorse the state as a tourism brand, mindful that Himachal was preparing to come out with a campaign to woo tourists. His declaration came during a visit to Shimla on November 4 to unveil a 108ft Hanuman statue.

But unlike father Amitabh, the Gujarat government’s brand ambassador, junior Bachchan seems to have failed to impress Himachal’s BJP government. Officials said Preity, whose family home is in Rohru, 100km from Shimla, was chosen because she was from the state and because the government wanted a pretty female face.

“It is not true that we have ignored Abhishek. We had been in talks with Preity for over seven months since she visited Dharamshala during IPL 3 (to watch a Kings XI Punjab match),” said Arun Sharma, director of tourism and civil aviation.

Officials said the proposal had taken the actress by “surprise”, probably because of her dwindling Bollywood fortunes.

Sources said Anurag Thakur, the chief minister’s son and Hamirpur MP, had met Preity on Saturday along with tourism officials and discussed the promotion campaign. The contract and the campaign are likely to be announced this week.

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