Top Gere

by Charisma Murari, The Times of India, October 25, 2005

New Delhi, India -- Richard Gere is a man of many passions, one of which is India.

As Richard Gere settles into a moulded plastic chair, asking this reporter to take the sofa instead, it becomes obvious why the Hollywood star has so charmed the world.

His jasmine tea arrives shortly, inspiring the grin that makes women melt.

The star of Pretty Woman, Chicago, An Officer and a Gentleman, Primal Fear and several other box-office crackers says, "Movies are a reflection of our lives, and while I cannot speak for others, I take responsibility for what my films convey."

Talk to him about India, and his eyes light up. He reminisces, "My fascination with the country began because of my faith in Buddhism.

I had travelled to Tibet and then came to India for the first time a couple of decades ago to meet some monks. I returned to meet the Dalai Lama.

That was my second visit to India. For a while, my visits were confined to Dharamsala and other Himalayan regions but gradually I started to move around."

In India to create awareness about the "monster disease that is AIDS", Gere says, "I support reality. And the reality is that people have sexual relations.

Do you know anyone who doesn't have sex? That is why it is important that the right information be given because, again, the reality is that people have sexual relations.

The biggest challenge to discussing AIDS in India is getting people to talk about sex. But it is heartening to see my counterparts like Chiranjeevi and Kamal Haasan spread the word."

Asked if star power, while focussing on the event, distracts from the issue, he said, "I do believe that once the initial excitement wears off, people will take note of the cause.

At any rate, people here will listen to their heroes talk about an issue."

While watching a performance of kalaripayattu, the martial art form of Kerala, on his television, he loosens up to talk about his passion for music.

He admits, "I still dabble in it. I play the keyboard and the guitar, among a host of other instruments. Will I ever release any of music commercially? I don't think so," he laughs.