The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hollywood healing touch in Bollywood

Mumbai, Dec. 9: Richard Gere, who has been uniting Hollywood against AIDS with his celeb carnival every year, has set his sights on Bollywood now.

Gere will be holding the Indian version of the carnival at the Turf Club in Mumbai on December 20, where Bollywood stars will be present by his side to help spread awareness about HIV, which is suddenly getting celebrity attention like never before in the country.

While many Bollywood stars are campaigning against AIDS from various platforms, for the Gere event, “Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Anoushka Shankar will lead a group of 40 celebrities from the world of film, fashion and music”, says socialite Parmeshwar Godrej.

A friend of Gere’s, she is part of the partnership formed last month between the Gere Foundation India Trust, the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation and herself to organise the event.

The carnival, to be called “A Time for Heroes India”, will echo the Hollywood one. Bachchan and Khan are likely to be spotted manning game booths, while Anoushka may be seen handing out treats from one of the food stalls to be set up at the carnival.

“There will be carnival style games, live performances, celebrities, prizes and a wide range of culinary speciality,” says Godrej, who adds she was “gently inducted into this cause by Gere”.

Godrej says the proceeds from the carnival will go to the US-based Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the beneficiary of the Hollywood charities, and the New Delhi-based Naz Foundation, another NGO working on the AIDS problem.

But she says the emphasis is not so much on raising money as to create awareness among people with the presence of “so many high profile heroes”.

The Gere Foundation, whose cause celebre is Tibet, aims to provide HIV/AIDS care and research and has been holding the Hollywood carnival for nine years.

The event this year, which raised $1.7 million, had a sparkling line-up of stars with Angela Bassett, Michael Douglas, Natalie Portman and Kimberly Williams, among a host of other celebrities.

Last year, the event, attended by Hillary Clinton, Geena Davis, Brooke Shields, had raised $1.5 million.

Hollywood has always enlisted its stars to spread awareness about the disease that has claimed a number of its icons. However, Bollywood has been quiet.

Now it seems ready to catch up with political correctness in this area, which may or may not have to do with he recent bountiful visit of Bill Gates to the country that has shed a lot of glamour in the field.

So, while a lacklustre Shabana Azmi or Sunil Dutt have been the champions of the cause for the past few years, suddenly film personalities are taking it up by the dozen now. Every now and then, Bollywood stars are making statements in the press to promote AIDS awareness.

On World AIDS Day, MTV held a concert in the city with Bollywood’s biggest singers. Recently Sonali Bendre and Sunil Shetty has featured in AIDS awareness film by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

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