Richard Gere says his kissing Shilpa Shetty was ‘nothing’

2 May, 2007: “It was nothing” was the reaction of Hollywood actor Richard Gere to a court in India ordering his arrest on April 26, 2007, for having kissed Indian actress Shilpa Shetty on the cheek in public.

At a function in New Delhi, capital of India, in the second week of April 2007, Richard Gere had held Shilpa Shetty tightly in his arms, dipped her and kissed her several times on the cheek.

The occasion was an event to promote AIDS awareness among Indian truck drivers.

The controversial act of Richard Gere, 57, the celebrated star of Pretty Woman and An Officer and a Gentleman, triggered protests in some parts of India, mostly by Hindu extremist groups, who considered it as an outrage against Shilpa Shetty’s modesty and an insult to Indian culture.

A court in Jaipur, Rajasthan, in northern India, ordered Richard Gere’s arrest in response to a complaint filed by a local lawyer.

Richard Gere, a devout Buddhist, who visits India frequently, said the event was a success at the time but blew up later.

He told cable channel Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart from New York that his “kissing the girl on the cheek was nothing.” Richard Gere was in New York promoting his latest film, The Hoax.

When he was told that he could face three months in jail or a fine or both for “obscenity in public place,” Richard Gere simply said he did not know of anyone who had gone to jail for something like this.

“There is a very small right-wing, very conservative political party in India and they are the moral police in India. They do this kind of thing quite often,” Richard Gere added. “If it goes to a reputable court, it gets thrown out.”

Groups of men had burned Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty in effigy in scattered protests across India after newspapers published on their front pages pictures of the two kissing and television channels aired replays of the event.

A judge at a court in Jaipur watched a video of Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty and found Gere guilty of violating Indian laws against public obscenity, Poonam Chand Bhandari, the lawyer who complained, said.

The has court summoned Shilpa Shetty to appear on May 5, 2007, Bhandari said, adding that Richard Gere was ordered arrested.

Richard Gere visits India frequently to meet the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India, and is an outspoken supporter of the cause of Tibet. He is also involved in charities relating to AIDS and orphans in India.

Shilpa Shetty, the winner of the ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ reality TV show in Britain this year, has said the kiss may have gone a “little overboard” but it was not at all obscene.

She said Gere was only re-enacting his moves from the film Shall We Dance? to entertain the audience at the event and communicate through action since he did not speak Hindi.



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