The Post

When Bollywood met Wellywood

- TOMMY LIVINGSTON

ONE of Bollywood’s most popular stars has landed in Wellywood.

A-list actor Sidharth Malhotra is Tourism New Zealand’s newest ambassador for India.

The heart-throb has a huge following in India, and has plenty of New Zealand fans too.

Some very star-struck fans heard him speak in Miramar on Monday evening.

Wellington East Girls’ College student Neelisha Kumar, 13, says she is Malhotra’s biggest fan.

‘‘Since Student of the Year came out, I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, he is so cute’.’’

Neelisha says it was a mad rush to get to The Roxy Cinema after school on Monday. ‘‘I’m still kind of shocked and overwhelme­d. I feel so lucky to have met him.’’

Her mother, Shyama Kumar, says Neelisha and her sister Manisha could not get to sleep after seeing him. ‘‘Funny young gals.’’

Malhotra covered a range of topics, and even gave his two cents’ worth on rugby.

He declared himself an All Blacks supporter and tipped a trans-Tasman World Cup final.

Born in Mumbai, Malhotra shot to fame when he won Face of the Year at an all-India modelling agency’s pageant in 2009.

Starting his film career in 2012, he received a Filmfare award for best male debut for his role in the coming-of-age romantic comedy Student of the Year.

Malhotra says he enjoyed a visit to Weta Workshop.

‘‘[I] saw how they made Lord of the Rings, and they made me into an elf with long hair, and I had a full armour suit on with a sword and elf ears.’’

As part of his stay in New Zealand, Malhotra will film a video highlighti­ng its scenery, adrenaline-packed activities and cultural experience­s, which will be incorporat­ed into Tourism New Zealand’s campaign work in India.

He will also deliver messages about safe driving, encouragin­g Indian visitors to take care on New Zealand roads.

Rene de Monchy, Tourism NZ’s director of trade, says working with celebritie­s such as Malhotra was crucial to bringing more tourists to New Zealand.

‘‘We know from past experience of working with celebritie­s like China’s Huang Lei and actress Yao Chen, their influence through popular culture, particular­ly through social media channels, is enormous,’’ he says.

‘‘India is an important emerging market for New Zealand. We saw a surge of interest from Indian visitors as a result of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup and I am sure the appointmen­t of Sidharth as our ambassador will further add to that interest.’’

The number of people visiting New Zealand from India is growing steadily, with numbers up 24.9 per cent to 43,329 for the year to the end of August, according to Tourism NZ.

 ?? Photo: KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ ?? Bollywood superstar Sidharth Malhotra, recently named New Zealand’s tourism ambassador for India, at The Roxy Cinema in Miramar on Monday evening. With him are, back row from left, Chandni Contractor, Neelam Contractor, Fraz Mohammed, and Rajvi Gandhi....
Photo: KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ Bollywood superstar Sidharth Malhotra, recently named New Zealand’s tourism ambassador for India, at The Roxy Cinema in Miramar on Monday evening. With him are, back row from left, Chandni Contractor, Neelam Contractor, Fraz Mohammed, and Rajvi Gandhi....

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