Royal friend Dev Anand to visit Kathmandu

Kathmandu, May 8 (IANS) As Nepal's cornered King Gyanendra awaits a countdown to the abolition of his crown, will his last days in the endangered royal palace be livened up with a visit by India's legendary film actor Dev Anand?

That is the buzz here with the evergreen actor, who turned into a film director from reigning hero in India's giant Hindi film industry in the course of a career spanning nearly five decades, arriving in Kathmandu Friday to promote his autobiography "Romancing With Life".

Dev Anand, whose blockbuster film on drug-snorting hippies "Hare Ram Hare Krishna" promoted Nepal as an idyllic locale, had last come to the Himalayan nation three years ago to receive a controversial award at the first - and only - film festival held during the absolute reign of King Gyanendra.

Critics said that Dev Anand was conferred the award because of his closeness to Nepal's royal family.

That was the year when King Gyanendra's attempt to seize absolute power triggered international condemnation and foreign governments began distancing themselves from the royal regime. Dev Anand was among the few foreign visitors to enjoy cordial relations with the embattled royal family.

The king himself awarded the honour and in turn received a spontaneous hug from Dev Anand, an unprecedented gesture of equality towards the royals, regarded as the incarnation of god and treated with reverence by the public.

The star had in the past come to Nepal as a state guest to attend the wedding of the previous king, Birendra. He said he had dropped his plan to make a film on the tragic massacre in the royal palace seven years ago, in which Birendra and nine other royals were killed, out of his desire not to hurt the sentiments of the family.

Dev Anand would be the star attraction at a book fair that kicks off in the capital Friday.

While the rest of his schedule is not known yet - especially if he is visiting the Narayanhity royal palace before it is turned into a museum and empathises with King Gyanendra - Dev Anand would hold a public interaction Saturday in a programme organised by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu and two local NGOs.

The thespian's visit comes at another crucial moment in Nepal's history.

On Thursday, the Election Commission will finally announce the results of the historic election last month in which people decided to vote out the king and his crown and vote in his enemies, the former Maoist guerrillas, and their vision of a republic.

Within three weeks from Thursday, the newly elected constituent assembly will meet and formally administer the death blow to Nepal's 240-year monarchy.

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