The moment he said "Kia Ora" -- an informal way of saying "Hi" in Maori language -- and drew its comparison with the Punjabi "Ki ho riya hai (what's up?)", Bollywood actor Sidharth Malhotra managed to establish a closer connect with around 35 students at the University of Auckland Business School here on Sunday. The newly-appointed Indian ambassador of Tourism New Zealand shared titbits about his journey in filmdom, his love and concern for rugby, and even imparted some pearls of wisdom about life.
Shah Rukh Khan and Sidharth Malhotra
Sidharth preferred to take a casual approach and his "Ki ho riya hai" totally did the trick. He chose to sit in the midst of the students to avoid making it feel like a lecture, and ensured it was an interactive session.
Students from different disciplines had gathered to chat with the actor, who made a place in Bollywood only three years ago after his big debut with "Student Of The Year", and with films like "Hasee Toh Phasee", "Ek Villain" and "Brothers". And he was impressed to see the swish campus!
"I have studied at Delhi University, and it's nothing like this," quipped the Delhi boy, who spent five years in Mumbai before his first film as an actor was released.
"I was 22 when I first shifted to Mumbai for a film. When it didn't work out, I decided to hang in there... then I took up work as an assistant director (in 'My Name Is Khan'). That was the best film school I could go to," shared the 30-year-old, who finds "every day, every film and every scene" challenging.
He believes in the idea of reinventing to break monotony, and says he has enjoyed his film journey so far -- and that also includes giving the clap for action to superstar Shah Rukh Khan.
"Shah Rukh sir has a knack of helping people... I'm his big fan," he said.
Sidharth himself is not short on popularity. While he's a widely followed Indian actor of his generation, his popularity could especially be gauged with the welcome he received at Auckland Airport, where some of his "desi" fans cheered for him and expressed eagerness for selfies galore.
The same enthusiasm was seen among students at the University of Auckland Business School -- they also got into a huddle for group selfies and photographs with the actor.
Among the students were two Indian women rugby players, who are studying here on the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Sports Scholarship.
Prodded by them, Sidharth, who is himself an avid rugby player, expressed his love for All Blacks, the New Zealand national rugby team. He also rued the fact that India is not doing enough to push rugby as a sport.
The 30-year-old, however, was impressed with the two women rugby players and shared that when he used to play the sport as part of Delhi Hurricanes, it was tough to convince even the boys about it.
The fit actor also spoke of his love for tennis, football, swimming and other outdoor activities, apart from suggesting interested students of cinema-related subjects to "come to Mumbai, the hub" to make a name for themselves.
As tourism ambassador of New Zealand, Sidharth is here on an eight-day trip to understand the country's culture and the myriad experiences it follows.