The Kiss That Shocked India
Posted by shadmia on April 22, 2007
Shilpa Shetty is no stranger to the limelight nor to controversy. She is a re-known Bollywood actress and the most recent winner of the British version of Celebrity Big Brother 2007, in which she was reduced to tears, made fun of, and was the object of racial remarks. She handled herself with the dignity and poise befitting a queen. Through it all she was supported by her fans in India and all over the world.
Shilpa Shetty has now found herself embroilled in another controversy. This time with the actor Richard Gere. Both celebrities were in New Delhi, India at an AIDS awareness event when Richard Gere kissed Shilpa Shetty multiple times on both her cheeks on stage. See the video below.
This incident enraged many people in India and protests broke out all over the country against both Shetty and Gere. Their effigies were burned and Gere was told to apologise to Shilpa Shetty and the country.
Shilpa Shetty was shocked by the reaction. “If protecting Indian culture and tradition means burning our effigies, please go ahead and carry on with your protests. But, our culture also teaches us to imbibe ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (the guest is god).”
“I was completely taken aback. My work was disrupted. The set was damaged. I know it is blown out of proportion. I feel people are overreacting. Don’t misuse the freedom of expression in a democracy,” she told media persons.
Defending Gere, she said: “He was just trying to strike a dancing pose. In India entertainment means song and dance, so he was trying to do something entertaining. That’s it. He didn’t try to kiss me on my lips. He was just giving me a peck on my cheeks.
“I don’t understand why are we making an idiot of ourselves by blowing it up. We will look like an idiot on British media. Whatever has happened is wrong,” said Shilpa
“I know it is a trivial issue. Somebody is trying to do something for your country and you are treating him so badly.”
Members of the Hindu rightwing group Shiv Shena attacked a press conference Monday being addressed by Shilpa in Mumbai and protests were organised in New Delhi, Kanpur, Jaipur, Varanasi, Meerut and Indore. According to one protester at Indore: “This is an intolerable and obscene act. It is against the values, culture and traditions of the nation. Gere must apologise”
Richard Gere has had no comment and left India for Nepal. He is scheduled to visit the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre in Kathmandu, where Tibetans, fleeing from China-controlled Tibet, stay under the supervision of the UN High Commission for Refugees till their onward journey to India is arranged. Gere, one of the most high-profile followers of the Dalai Lama is known for his humanitarian work. He was also involved in AIDS awareness campaigns, and was in India earlier to take part in an event to promote safe sex and raise AIDS awareness among truck drivers, a high-risk group in India.
However the protesters did not stop at street protests. In two different courts lawyers filed complaints against both Shilpa and Gere accusing them of: “An obscene act” in a public place, which India’s conservative society cannot tolerate and also included private television channels for showing videos of the kissing incident.