Remember back in April when Richard Gere caused that HUGE controversy in India after he kissed Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty at an HIV/AIDS awareness summit? Well he’s finally apologized. I’m not saying he should or shouldn’t have, but if he was going to, I would have thought he would have done it a bit sooner than five months later. At first Gere was pretty pissy about the whole thing and refused to apologize, telling Jon Steward, “”There is a very small, right-wing, very conservative political party in India, and they are the moral police in India and they do this kind of thing quite often.” But now, for whatever reason, he’s singing a new tune.
“Richard Gere tried to quell the storm over a public kiss he gave a Bollywood star at an AIDS awareness event, apologizing Friday for any offense. Gere’s embrace and kiss of actress Shilpa Shetty sparked several noisy demonstrations by hard-line Hindu groups and a flurry of legal complaints, which ended with a judge in the northwestern city of Jaipur issuing an arrest warrant for the two stars for violating obscenity laws.
“‘What is most important to me is that my intentions as an HIV/AIDS advocate be made clear, and that my friends in India understand that it has never been, nor could it ever be, my intention to offend you,’ Gere said in statement issued by the Heroes Project, an organization the 57-year-old actor co-founded to combat AIDS in India. ‘If that has happened, of course it is easy for me to offer a sincere apology,’ he said.
“The embrace, in front of about 4,000 truckers, was a failed parody of a move from Gere’s film ‘Shall We Dance,’ and ‘a naive misread of Indian customs,’ he said. Gere said he was confident the issue would be sorted out. ‘I don’t know that anyone has actually gone to jail, it has to go through a process. It goes to a reputable court, and they throw it out,’ he said on the TV show.
[From the Associated Press]
According to Indian law, Gere and Shetty could face up to three months in prison and/or a fine, if found guilty of public obscenity. He’s been a big supporter of various HIV/AIDS organizations in India, along with having a long friendship with the Dalai Lama, who has his headquarters in the Indian city of Dharmasala. It seems like most of the legal community in India are rather embarrassed by the scandal, and think the judge who issued warrants for Gere and Shetty should be censured.
“On Friday, Gere won support from lawyers and legal experts in India, who slammed the Jaipur court ruling. ‘The order is ridiculous. Even if this hugging and kissing was a bit vulgar, it does not amount to obscenity,’ India’s former attorney general Soli Sorabjee told The Associated Press. Sorabjee said the judge should not have issued an arrest warrant without hearing from Gere and Shetty. ‘They are just seeking publicity,’ he said. Another senior lawyer called the order ‘an act of judicial indecency. This is only for cheap publicity and the magistrate and lawyer should be restrained,’ Dushyant Dave told the Times of India newspaper.”
[From the Washington Post]
I try really hard to be respectful of other cultures and customs, even when I don’t understand them. So I don’t want to say that Gere should or shouldn’t have done what he did, or that Indians should have reacted in a certain way. I’m a big “when in Rome” type. But I think that the response from several members of the Indian legal community makes it pretty clear that they think the reaction to this has been a bit backwards. Gere also expressed remorse for the way that the incident has affected Shetty’s reputation and career. It’s pretty clear that he’s generally a good guy (gerbil rights incidents aside) and genuinely cares for the Indian people. I hope they cut him a break, and he keeps his lips to himself from now on.
Picture Note by Jaybird: Here’s a video of the incident. Thanks to Seriously? OMG! WTF.