NEW DELHI: Angry crowds in several Indian cities burned effigies of RICHARD GERE yesterday after he swept a popular Bollywood actress into his arms and kissed her several times during an AIDS-awareness event.
In front of a cheering crowd in New Delhi, Gere kissed the giggling SHILPA SHETTY on the hand, then kissed her on both cheeks before bending her in a full embrace to kiss her cheek again.
In Mumbai, members of the right-wing Hindu nationalist group Shiv Sena beat burning effigies of Gere with sticks and set fire to glamorous shots of Shetty.
Similar protests broke out in other cities, including Varanasi and in the northern town of Meerut, where crowds chanted "Down with Shilpa Shetty!"
Shetty tried to stamp out the controversy.
"I understand this is his culture, not ours. But this was not such a big thing or so obscene for people to overreact in such manner," she said.
"I understand people's sentiments, but I don't want a foreigner to take bad memories from here," she added.
The spokesman for Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party condemned the kiss.
"Such a public display is not part of Indian tradition," said the spokesman.
Shetty, already well-known in India, became an international star after her appearance on the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother.