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Hrithik Roshan makes triumphant comeback in Nepal

Monday, October 10, 2005 • Hindi Comments
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Nearly five years after his name triggered violence in Nepal and caused his films to be barred from theatres, Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan has made a triumphant comeback in the Himalayan kingdom - playing a different role.

The 31-year-old actor, whose debut film "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai" became a smash hit in 2000, turned into a villain overnight in Nepal the same year when some local newspapers wrongly reported him as saying during a TV interview that he did not like the country and its people.

The fabricated reports triggered riots in Nepal, with Indians targeted by angry mobs. Theatres screening Hrithik's films were attacked, posters burnt and four people killed in police firing.

The violence of December 2000 made the Nepali film distributors wary of bringing Hrithik Roshan films into the kingdom and despite later revelations that he was innocent of any anti-Nepal remarks, the Indian heartthrob has been overtaken in Nepal by other Bollywood stars like Abhishek Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.

However, the neglected star has returned before the public eye now as brand ambassador for the John Players brand of clothing launched by Surya Nepal, ITC's joint venture in Nepal.

Surya Nepal began a promotion of the brand to take advantage of the shopping season on the eve of Dashain, Nepal's biggest festival. Over 10 hoardings in Kathmandu prominently display Hrithik's face, followed by a campaign in the print media.

"Public memory is short," says Subarna Chhetri, the founder of the Miss Nepal beauty pageant that has given Nepal's younger generations a crop of new fashion icons.

"People have already forgotten what happened in 2000. Besides, Nepal has more pressing things on its mind right now. Anybody who is a celebrity is looked up to as someone to be followed."

"Indian celebrities have worked here," says Joydeb Chakravarty, managing director of Thomson Nepal, the advertising agency handling the John Players campaign.

"Ad campaigns with Indian cricketers have worked very well here, so have ads with Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai."

Brand strategy determines what sort of model would be used, says Chakravarty.

"If the strategy is localization, then it will be local models. If you want to go beyond borders and internationalize, then there are the international models."

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