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Cause to fund, Gere to fawn on

Mumbai, Dec. 20: Entry fees: Rs 12,000 for a family of two adults and two children. One adult Rs 4,500. One child Rs 2,500.

It is your privilege to donate to Richard Gere’s AIDS kitty. The Hollywood actor is in town today holding the AIDS charity to beat all AIDS charities, for which he has brought the entire Bollywood together.

The event, A Time for Heroes India, is promised to be “a night you and your child will never forget”. Manning the game stalls at the carnival-style event will be the A to Z of Bollywood, from Aamir Khan to Zeenat Aman, punctuated by Aishwarya Rai, Amitabh Bachchan, Bipasha Basu, Esha Deol, Fardeen Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Lata Mangeshkar, M.F. Husain, Rani Mukherjee, Raveena Tandon, Urmila Matondkar and Vivek Oberoi, to name a few.

The cars are lined up at the Turf Club, the venue, and eager families are queuing up for a dekko, though there is no information on how many tickets were sold finally for the good cause.

Gere, charming in a powder-blue shirt and a beige suit, blamed the event all on Parmeshwar Godrej, the socialite wife of industrialist Adi Godrej. The actor had made just one phone call to Parmeshwar, and everything fell into place.

“We tried four years ago to hold consciousness-raising events in Delhi and Mumbai,” said the actor, whose Gere Foundation has been involved with work on AIDS for some years. “But very little really moved forward.” So he decided to hold this event now.

“Mumbai was the place. Celebs live here. Generous people live here. One person who could do it was Parmeshwar Godrej,” said Gere, who smilingly posed for an army of lensmen who surrounded him from all sides. A lady who came with him was overheard saying that the star of An Officer and A Gentleman and Pretty Woman was prepared for a mob scene.

The beneficiaries of Time for Heroes India — modelled on the annual Time for Heroes in the US attended by Hollywood actors — will be the US-based Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the Naz Foundation, based in New Delhi. Both outfits work to fight AIDS.

The American Time for Heroes event, which was first held 13 years ago, has raised $150 million to support paediatric research and care around the world for HIV positive people and reduce mother-to-child HIV infection, said Kate Carr of the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation, the beneficiary of Gere’s US show.

The Gere Foundation that works on AIDS and the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation felt that India needed special attention.

Carr said the proceeds from the show here, too, would go into research and care in the same areas. “There are 27 million children born in India every year. Even if 2 per cent of their mothers are HIV positive, it means 200,000 children will be born infected,” she said.

Gere also announced that pharmaceuticals company Cipla had reaffirmed that it would distribute for free in India the drug Nevirapine, a commonly-used medication used for HIV and AIDS patients. In India, the single-dose drug costs around Rs 30.

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