The trade commissioner of New Zealand Trade Development Board, Mr Peter Healy, dubs it the `Hrithik factor'. And it certainly shows star-power: the New Zealand High Commission in Delhi has witnessed an unprecedented rise in visa/permit applications from Indian students, as well as tourists, following the release of the mega-hit Hrithik Roshan-starrer Kaho Na Pyar Hai.
In fact, with the number of visa applications rising as meteorically as the star, the High Commission found it difficult to cope with the spurt in demand as the infrastructure was inadequate. Therefore, in the last six months, the existing 2,000-square feet immigration and visa office has been extended by another 8,000 square feet, to handle the steady pile of applications.
Pointing out that the total investment in the expansion was US $ 0.5 million, Mr Healy says: "We call this additional area the `Hrithik Addition'. In fact, we invited Hrithik Roshan to open the building, but unfortunately he was away abroad." A new resource centre for Indian students wanting to study in New Zealand was also opened last week.
According to Mr Healy, "Since the movie came out, we noticed an immediate increase in the number of tourists as well as students. The movie has dramatically raised the visitor inflow to New Zealand." There have been four films from South India, which were shot in New Zealand as well, which became mega hits and contributed to the inflow, this year. ``But the `Hrithik factor' is unprecedented,'' he adds.
Here's a look at the visa/permits issued in the last one year. Immediately after the release of the movie, the number of students visas/permits issued in February 2000 shot up to about 70 from around 15 in December 1999, and 15 in January 2000. Compared to the July 1999 figure of around 42, the number of visas and permits granted to students in July 2000 soared to over 150. On the other hand, the tourist inflow has risen to 600-700 visas/permits a month from 300 per month before the release of the movie.
There is more to it though. Not only the tourist inflow from India has gone up but Indian tourists from Canada, the UK and the US have been flocking to New Zealand too, drawn to the beautiful locales showcased by Bollywood. The New Zealand hotel industry has been a witness to this phenomenon in the recent months too, says Mr Healy. This seems to be just the beginning of the Hrithik era in New Zealand. According to Mr Healy, the wonderboy of the Indian film industry will soon be back in New Zealand to shoot for two more movies to be directed by his father Rakesh Roshan.
The `Hrithik factor' has turned out be an employment generation factor as well at the High Commission. Post Kaho Na Pyar Hai, the number of immigration staff at the high commission office in New Delhi has doubled to 16 members from the earlier 8. "These employees owe their jobs to Hrithik", chuckles Mr Healy.
Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.