Mumbai, Bollywood's much-in-the-news actress Shilpa Shetty is outraged by the Hindu rightwing Shiv Shena's violent reaction to her striking a "dancing pose" with Hollywood superstar Richard Gere and says they were overreacting to an absolutely trivial issue.
"I was completely taken aback. My work was disrupted. The set was damaged. I am not allowed to I know it is blown out of proportion. If protecting Indian culture and tradition means burning our effigies, please go ahead and do it. But our culture also teaches us "atithi devo bhava" (Guest is God). I feel people are overreacting. Don't misuse the freedom of expression in a democracy," Shilpa told mediapersons.
Shiv Sena members attacked a press conference Monday being addressed by Shilpa in Mumbai in the wake of Gere giving her a surprise hug and peck on her cheeks at a show organised to create AIDS awareness amongst truck drivers. They also burnt the effigies of both the actors and demanded that the Hollywood actor should leave the country immediately.
Defending Gere, she said: "He was just trying to strike a dancing pose. In India entertainment means song and dance, so he was trying to do something entertaining. That's it. He didn't try to kiss me on my lips. He was just giving me a peck on my cheeks.
"I know it is a trivial issue. Somebody is trying to do something for your country and you are treating him so badly."
Apart from Mumbai, sporadic protests were seen in Varanasi, Meerut and Indore by so-called guardians of morality.
After winning the British reality show "Big Brother", the actress has become quite popular in Britain and feels this kind of irresponsible behaviour will leave a bad impression on the British public.
"I don't understand why are we making an idiot of ourselves by blowing it up. We will look like an idiot on British media. Whatever has happened is wrong."