Ketut s eyes on fame
Ketut's eyes on fame

His on-screen flirtation with "safe driver" Rhonda has spawned a legion of fans, a range of T-shirts and became a social media hit - and Ketut (real name Kadek Mahardika) could not be happier.

The part-time Melbourne forklift driver unexpectedly shot to fame after appearing in an AAMI insurance commercial with Perth-born actress Mandy McElhinney earlier this year.

Since appearing in his role as a hotel employee flirting with holidaymaker Rhonda in Bali, Mahardika said he had been overwhelmed by the way the public had embraced the characters and the way in which the sexual tension between the two had sparked people's imagination.

Though he still has his day job, Mahardika is inundated daily with requests for autographs, photos and videos, and with follow-up adverts in the pipeline, his popularity looks set to soar further.

"I honestly cannot believe it," he said. "It makes me very happy that people like it. That's what I like to do, to make people laugh and make sure their day is good.

"The first time I saw it, I was watching TV with friends and the advert came on. I was laughing so much, it was just . . . wow.

"And I'm hearing people talk about the sexual tension between Rhonda and Ketut on Facebook and on radio. My girlfriend called one radio station and told them, 'I am the real Rhonda'."

Mahardika moved to Australia from Bali four years ago to be with his partner, Laura, and originally had no intention of auditioning for the part until a friend gave the casting agency his number.

"It was a very different experience for me, unreal," he said. "I said to them, 'I don't know how to act but I can try'.

"When I did the audition, I had to flirt with a woman who was supposed to be Rhonda - I used to be a lifeguard on a beach in Bali, so it was easy."

The keen surfer said aside from the public attention, his life was still "pretty normal" but he hoped to get more work in the industry.

Mahardika is full of praise for McElhinney, who he said was lovely and great to work with. He is also a fan of "great guy" Dennis Cometti, with whom he has starred in another AAMI advert.

McElhinney, fresh from her role in hit miniseries Howzat! Kerry Packer's War, said she was heart- ened by the level of interest in her character Rhonda's welfare.

"I think there is a great demand for the continuing story, which is lovely," she said.

"She is turning into a bit of a soap opera.

"I just love that everybody wants the best for Rhonda."

The West Australian

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