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May 28, 2001

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HrithikHrithik Roshan

Shyam Bhatia
India Abroad correspondent in London

Hrithik Roshan stretched out his arms as he faced Big Ben.

He relaxed and pointed a finger at the gang of camera-happy Indian fans gathered to watch him filming on the South Bank of the River Thames.

Hrithik Roshan "No solo shots please," he told them as he grinned. Minutes later, he was posing with each member of the small, but adoring, crowd that had waited patiently as he rehearsed the last scene on the final day's shooting for Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

Later, he explained, "I don't permit solo shots because some people try to make money out of the pictures by selling them."

It was not a complaint, more a statement of fact by a superstar increasingly respected for both his acting techniques and his personal code of gentlemanly behaviour.

In Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, he plays one of Amitabh Bachchan's two sons (the other son is Shah Rukh Khan). The film plot has Hrithik romantically linked with one of two sisters played by Kareena (the other is played by Kajol).

Or at least that's the way it looked on location with Big Ben and the British Houses of Parliament shimmering across the river and a speed boat making vroom! vroom! noises as it sped past in the dark.

The actual sequence we witnessed on the last day of shooting involved a tango-like dance movement in which Kareena, dressed in a bold red bikini top and matching leather trousers is swept off her feet by muscular Hrithik.

There were a few wolf whistles from the crowd as Hrithik and Kareena acted the scene for the umpteenth time.

One Japanese tourist, who had never heard of Hindi cinema, thought he was witnessing the love scene from a Latin American melodrama.

In fact with the way they looked and they way they dressed, there was no way an uninformed foreigner could detect that the leading man and his leading lady were box office hot properties from the Indian film world.

Seconds later, Hrithik and Kareena hurried back to the television monitor around which director Karan Johar and his assistants were hunched.

It was no good. They had to do it all again.

This time, the colour of Kareena's lipstick had to be changed. Hrithik's hair was out of place and had to be brushed back. As the man with the make-up bag and the girl with the hairbrush finished their work, the cameras rolled again.

Less than 24 hours earlier, I had watched the couple as they acted out yet another sequence in the shadows of London's historic St Paul's Cathedral.

On that occasion, there was no dance, just sitting and talking in their silver Mercedes Benz convertible