Richard Gere Smooches Shilpa Shetty, Sparks Outrage

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Richard Gere.

He's always good for a story. Sometimes involving gerbils.

This time, though, it's his repeated kisses of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty that have him making headlines. The smooching took place at an AIDS awareness event in India Monday, sparking outrage from demonstrators burning effigies of the actor.

Wow. While we've considered burning an effigy of Spencer Pratt after a couple of episodes of The Hills, this reaction seems a tad extreme to us.

Footage of the Hollywood star sweeping Shilpa Shetty in a dramatic embrace at the Sunday event in New Delhi was repeatedly aired on news channels Monday

Many saw the act as an outrage against Shilpa Shetty's modesty and Indian culture, though Shetty herself angrily dismissed the protests as an "over-reaction" that made India look silly.

Groups of men burned and kicked effigies of the actors in protests across India, including the cities of New Delhi, Kanpur, Meerut, Varanasi and Indore.

Some called for the actors' deaths. Others wanted public apologies. One can only guess which group Gere nemesis Sylvester Stallone falls into.

But Shetty, the winner of the "Celebrity Big Brother" reality TV show in Great Britain this year, said the reaction to the kiss made India look "regressive."

"I admit it went a little overboard but that was not the intention," she said to a crowd of journalists and protesters that had besieged her film set in Mumbai on Monday evening.

"He did not do anything obscene," she said of Gere, adding that they had since spoken on the phone. "He apologized to me and told me to tell the media that he apologized."

She said Gere was only re-enacting his moves from the film Shall We Dance, with Jennifer Lopez, in an attempt entertain the audience and communicate in a Bollywood style as he did not speak Hindi.

The event was held Sunday night to encourage truckers - seen as a high-risk group in India's fight against AIDS - to wear condoms during sex.

They whooped with delight and whistled loudly as Richard Gere swooped down on a visibly delighted Shetty to kiss her on her hand and a number of times on one side of her face.

"No condom, no sex," a the 58-year-old Gere shouted in Hindi to thousands of truck drivers who roared his words back in unison at a dusty fairground in New Delhi.

Authorities in India have focused on high-risk groups such as truckers, who have helped spread the virus across the country as many of them have sexual intercourse with Paris Hilton prostitutes during their journeys and later infect their wives back home.

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