Gere and Shetty upset Indians with their onstage kisses at AIDS awareness event
RICHARD Gere's kisses on the cheeks of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at an event to raise awareness of AIDS sparked protests in India yesterday, with demonstrators burning effigies of the actors.
Footage of the Hollywood star sweeping Shetty backwards in a dramatic embrace at the event in New Delhi was repeatedly aired on news channels.
Many saw it as an outrage against Shetty's modesty and Indian culture. Shetty dismissed the protests as an "over-reaction" that made India look silly.
Groups of men burned and kicked effigies of the actors in protests across India. Some called for the actors' deaths. Others wanted apologies.
But Shetty, winner of the Celebrity Big Brother reality TV show in Britain, said the reaction made India look "regressive".
"I admit it went a little overboard but that was not the intention," she said to a crowd of journalists and protesters who beseiged her Mumbai film set.
"He did not do anything obscene," she said of Gere, adding that they had since spoken on the phone. "He apologised to me and told me to tell the media that he apologised."
She said Gere was only re-enacting his moves from the film Shall We Dance to entertain the audience as he did not speak Hindi.
The clinch between the stars had gone down well when it happened onstage at a New Delhi event to encourage lorry drivers - seen as a high-risk group in India's fight against AIDS - to wear condoms during sex.
They whooped with delight as Gere swooped down on a visibly pleased Shetty to kiss her on the hand and face.
"No condom, no sex," an ebullient Gere shouted in Hindi to thousands of truckers who roared his words in unison.
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