The news of Bollywood star Shiney Ahuja being sent to police custody on the charge of raping his teenaged domestic help has been splashed in the Nepali media, getting more prominence than the upcoming visit of Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.
Barring the Maoist dailies, Nepal's major newspapers and the tabloids on Tuesday reported the incident as did the sedate official media that generally stays aloof from sensational news.
"Bollywood hero Ahuja arrested", said the state-run Gorkhapatra daily, Nepal's oldest newspaper, while its sister publication in English, the Rising Nepal, was more explicit with "Shiney arrested for rape".
Debutant daily Republica carried the news on its front page, usually devoted to issues of national importance. "Shiney arrested", it said.
"Nepalis enjoy an intimacy with Indian cinema", said Sita Ram Agrahari, Gorkhapatra's chief editor. "Even before the birth of Nepali cinema, Nepalis were interested in Bollywood, the lives of its stars and its music. Films that are popular in India are also popular in Nepal. While we don't know much about the film industry of our northern neighbour China - barring a few stars of Chinese origin like Jackie Chan, we are well acquainted with Bollywood. We decided to address that concern by covering the news of Ahuja's arrest."
Though Shiney Ahuja has not shot any film in Nepal or visited the country recently, the republic is familiar with some of the films that catapulted him to fame, like Gangster and Woh Lamhe, courtesy satellite television.
The star's predicament also touched a chord in Nepal because it comes on the heels of a recent controversy involving a popular Nepali singer. Yam Baral, a golden-voiced youth from the tea garden district of Ilam in eastern Nepal, burst on the music scene almost 20 years ago after he won a singing contest on radio. Now one of the most popular singers as well as playback artistes, Baral was recently dragged into a controversy when a tabloid accused him of unlawfully restraining a domestic help and exploiting her.
It caused the singer to call a press conference where he denied the report, calling it a conspiracy to tarnish his image.