A week or so ago, I suggested that “Idol Chatter” cover the Richard Gere kissing kerfuffle that was consuming India. It seems the “Officer and a Gentleman” exhibited what some Indians consider less than gentlemanly behavior by vigorously kissing Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty several times on the hand and cheek while attending an AIDS/HIV awareness event. At the time, it was decided there were other stories to cover and that the incident would most likely blow over quickly, but like Gere’s career, this story has made an incredible comeback, with a court issuing arrest warrants for both Gere and Shilpa.
A local in Jaipur filed an obscenity complaint and Judge Dinesh Gupta issued the warrants stating that the actors, “transgressed all limits of vulgarity and have the tendency to corrupt the society” and called event footage “highly sexually erotic” and against India’s strict public obscenity laws.
I agree strongly with Dinesh D’Souza when he says that while he doesn’t share the “extreme conservatism of traditional cultures” he thinks it’s “naive of us not to recognize that there are deeply-held values in other societies, and it is especially easy for Hollywood types like Gere to outrage the locals.”
And while it’s important to respect people’s beliefs, Hinduism and tradition may not be the only motivations here: “Such cases against celebrities–often filed by publicity seekers–are common in conservative India,” notes MSNBC.com. “They add to a backlog of legal cases that has nearly crippled the country’s judicial system.”
Gere himself mentioned on last night’s Daily Show that, “They do this kind of thing quite often. I don’t know that anyone has actually gone to jail … It goes to a reputable court and they throw it out,” as TMZ.com reports.
Coming just on the heels of the Elizabeth Hurley matrimony melee, it seems that these publicity seekers are moving to the big leagues, leaving Bollywood for Hollywood. But burning effigies of Gere in the streets? Imagine what would have happened if he’d had a “wardrobe malfunction”?
Sure, his Greenwich Village neighbors were aggravated with him a few years ago for building a Buddhist prayer hut on top of his brownstone, but Gere has done a lot of advocacy work in India, for health issues as well as Tibetan exiles. Heck, the man is buddy-buddy with the Dalai Lama himself, and often visits him in Dharamsala, in Northern India. It goes without saying that conservative traditionalists most likely wouldn’t care if Gere has done good works, and might take offense at a “Western” interloper trying to improve/interfere with their culture.
And even though Shetty was raised in a traditional Hindu family, as her mother described in a January 2007 interview with The Times of London, she herself is quoted as saying, “this was not such a big thing, or obscene, for people to overreact in such a manner.”
Then again, she has a warrant out for her arrest, too.
What do you think? Is this kiss hotter, so to speak, than his famous cinematic lip-lock with Debra Winger?