By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Sep 21 (IANS) From being a much-sought-after model and the highest paid music video star, 22-year-old Nepali beauty Namrata Shrestha effortlessly sashayed into Nepal's film industry last year with the hit musical of the year "Sano Sansar" (Small world).
With her fan clubs growing and mounting tributes to both her ethereal beauty and talent, she was poised to become a newsmaker this month with her new release, "Mero euta sathi chho" (I have a friend).
Instead, she has hit the headlines for a steamy sex video that is being widely circulated by web sites and mobile phone users showing her in unabashed poses with a Nepali DJ, Tantric, whose real name is Kicha Man Chitrakar.
On Sunday, a Nepali tabloid made the sex video, shot with a mobile phone camera, its cover story, complete with graphic descriptions as well as photos of the pair.
Namrata reportedly says it's her personal matter.
When the Naya Patrika daily, that carried a report on the nearly 11-minute long sex video, asked her to comment on it, the rising star reportedly said: "Yes, I recorded it for my personal viewing. If you have a copy, I'd suggest you enjoy it without bothering me."
The sex video and Nepali society's reaction to it shows the changing face of the new republic that has witnessed amazing socio-political transformations in the last four years.
Parallels are being drawn between it and the Shrisha Karki scandal that erupted in 2002, creating a furore, intense social condemnation and even police action.
In 2002, Shrisha, another aspiring starlet, committed suicide after a weekly published a report exposing the casting couch syndrome in Nepal's film industry which exploited Shrisha and other vulnerable newcomers like her.
However, the nude photograph of Shrisha, published by the Jana Aastha weekly with its report on enforced prostitution in the Nepali film industry caused the young actress to commit suicide, triggering a backlash against the weekly.
"I had to remain underground for one and a half years," says Kishor Shrestha, the 39-year-old editor of the weekly, who in 2002 faced a warrant for his arrest due to growing social outcry.
"But now, in the new permissive society, things are regarded differently."
Shrestha says the sex video reinforces the absence of ethics in Nepal's film industry as well as growing promiscuity.
"While Shrisha was forced into prostitution, in Namrata's case, the situation is different," he says. "She is well educated and her career had taken off. She admitted that she herself had got the video made."
Seven years ago, the public outrage was triggered because the actress committed suicide, he says.
"When people die, our society treats them as saints," he says. "But Namrata has not committed suicide, showing she is made of sterner stuff."
But though society has become permissive, Shrestha says the Namrata incident still goes against traditional society values.
"It's a betrayal," he says. "Namrata has her own boyfriend while the DJ is a married man with kids. The incident has dealt a blow to his marriage."
He also predicts that though she can brazen it out, it is going to affect Namrata's career.
"Her fans have already started making adverse comments on the Net after the incident," he says. "It has tarnished her image and her credibility."