October 20, 2016 / 4:06 PM / in a year

Pakistan's newest celebrity, a handsome tea vendor, rejects film talk

Arshad Khan, formerly a chai wala (tea seller) by profession, poses for a picture after doing a television interview in Islamabad, Pakistan October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - An 18-year-old tea vendor who became Pakistan’s hottest new celebrity when his photo went viral on the Internet says he has no plans for an acting career - though he is flattered by the attention.

Arshad Khan became an overnight sensation this week when a photographer’s Instagram shot of him working at his tea stall was shared tens of thousands of times.

“It was all very baffling,” said Khan, who has blue-green eyes, a wiry physique and a trim moustache.

Khan is an ethnic Pashtun, a people living mostly in Pakistan and Afghanistan who sometimes have light skin and eyes, a testament to the region’s history as a cultural crossroads of trade, conquering armies and colonialism.

Local news outlets have reported offers of modeling contracts and even a possible film career for Khan, but he says he’s not interested.

Arshad Khan, formerly a chai wala (tea seller) by profession, poses for a picture after doing a television interview in Islamabad, Pakistan October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

“I have not thought about (acting in) movies, because it’s not been done by anyone in our family,” he said.

Acting in films, he said “is not honorable work. Pashtuns always look for work that is honorable .... If I can find some clean, honorable work, I will certainly do it.”

Arshad Khan (C), formerly a chai wala (tea seller) by profession, posses for a selfie with fans after doing a television interview in Islamabad, Pakistan October 20, 2016.REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Even if he did have acting aspirations, his opportunities may be limited by the escalating tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and India.

There have already been calls in India for a ban on Pakistani actors and actresses in the country’s giant Bollywood film industry.

Despite his lack of interest in acting, Khan said he has come to enjoy his sudden - albeit possibly brief - moment of fame.

“I came to know this morning that I am very good looking,” he said. “All these people are coming and taking pictures and videos of me.”

Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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