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'Hello, Shilpa? It's Richard Gere'

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    By: Upala KBR, Mid-Day
    Thursday, November 30, 2006
    The normally cool and unflappable Shilpa Shetty is all hot and bothered. The reason: Richard Gere. The Hollywood hunk called her up on Tuesday evening to thank her for her work in creating awareness about HIV/Aids. Shetty recounts her experience.

    Smile on my face

    We catch up with Shilpa at Lokhandwala, where she's shooting for Anurag Basu's Metro. "There's so much to learn from a director like Anurag," she says, grinning from ear to ear, and we just have to ask what has lit up that smile. "I am so excited!" chirps Shilpa. "Since Tuesday evening I've been walking around with a huge smile on my face.

    Richard Gere called to thank me for the work I've been doing with the Heroes Project, of which he is a part. I was so overwhelmed! I told him I should be the one thanking him for the work he's been doing for us. He has so much class and is so generous. I am a huge fan and today I have made my acquaintance with him."

    The call

    Shilpa reveals that someone from the Heroes Project called first to inform her that Gere wanted to talk to her. "She said, 'I've given him your number', and I was like 'Who is Richard?' She said, 'Richard Gere.' I was in shock.

    But he's so warm and down-to-earth." She adds, "Richard has seen Phir Milenge and liked it very much. I will also be attending the World Aids Day function in Delhi on December 1."

    Working for a cause

    Shilpa has been doing her bit to promote Aids awareness for quite some time now. "Some people from UNAIDS met me and asked if I would be interested in working with the project. I agreed immediately. One needs to create as much awareness about Aids as possible.

    I visit several places and speak about HIV/Aids and its impact on our lives. People are slowly showing solidarity for others living with the disease. It makes a huge difference when I put my arms around AIDS patients and hug them. There is still a stigma attached to the disease."

    Richard Gere's work in India

    Gere works closely with the Naz Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in New Delhi. He has helped the Foundation establish and expand The Aids Care Home, the first residential facility in India dedicated to serving women and orphaned children with Aids.

    For the past few years, he has also helped the Foundation raise awareness about HIV/Aids. Gere also established the Delhi-based Gere Foundation India Trust in 1999 and is a prime mover in creating a coalition of government, business, entertainment, healthcare and NGO leaders to fight the epidemic in India.

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