Sunday, October 23, 2005


You meet the gorgeous man from ‘Pretty Woman’ and one of the first things he does is show you a tear in his trousers. Just as he was sitting down for the interview Richard Gere said to me, “I’m so jet-lagged and tired… look even my trousers are torn.” I just smiled and said, “Welcome to chennai.” (?? D’Oh!!?)

From then on I was determined to be a better conversationalist. The moments while your cameraman is checking the lights and sound are always extremely awkward. The interviewee is sitting right there in front of you and you’ve got to make easy conversation till you can abruptly start when you hear the word, “rolling”. What easy conversation do you make with Richard Gere? Turned out I didn’t have to worry about that. Gere is a seasoned TV interviewee.

He began to fill the space by beginning with, “Have we met before? You looked so familiar sitting there in the press conference.” (I was meeting him in an ante-room after his presser with Kamal Hassan, Parmeshwar Godrej and Kalanidhi Maran) I told him we hadn’t, although I was flattered for some reason. We started talking about this and that and he enquired about Dr. Prannoy Roy. But even as we talked, I began to get a bit fidgety because I was still not getting the green signal from my cameramen. Richard Gere immediately noticed that and wonderful gentleman that he is, asked me if the other people in the room were making me nervous. I assured him they weren’t and a nice woman from ABC news (cant remember her name now but her handshake is memorable… she was very strong), also chipped in with, “Its her cameramen who are making her nervous.”

Anyway, so the interview finally began. My introduction to camera was smooth and I set him talking about his mission of spreading awareness on HIV and AIDS. He has given these interviews many, many times so his sentences flowed like an extension of repeated thought. For an interviewer, that is always disheartening. Its as if your questions are not inspiring your interviewee to think anew about the same things.

However, I felt his body language change a little bit after the third question. I had kept the best questions for later. His reply was more spontaneous and thinking yet clear and concise. But just as I was settling in, his manager warned me that I could ask only one more question. My exclusive time with him had been eaten up by the technical delay.

So I shot my last question to which I think he gave me his most spontaneous answer. I was very pleased but had to wind up, at the point where I thought it was really getting interesting. Imagine my delight when he said, “I wish we had more time.” I could only say, “Me too.”

Incidentally, white hair and torn trousers have never looked more becoming on a man.


Anonymous said...

must confess that i do enjoy the blog side of the story than the news channel side of it. in the sense that the blog side tends to be more candid and casual. i always used to wonder about the 'other' side of the stories. its like someone actually heard me thinking out loud. i actually found time to read a lot of your blogs from your archive and they do make an interesting read.
this very one on meeting gere, whats your personal stand on the use of 'brand ambassador' sort of approach to the whole HIV thing? is it taking any effect or is it just another way to attract attention to the message that they convey? interestingly i read something on rediff which carried an article on this gere-kamal thing. the article signed off saying something that meant "please take home the message and not the stars". very sensible comment that. in a country like india the stars are percieved much bigger than anything they endorse. otherwise why use a shah rukh khan for lux?

Sreejith Panickar said...

One of the very famous Buddhists around :-)

Sathish N said...

Is it online? Where can we read your interview?

This was once a regular blog but, after six said...

ya..when does it air?

Shahab said...

Hmm.. when will it be aired ..?

Anyways .. Sorry to hijack your thread ( I am sure you'd be thinking that someone is saying this to you for umpteenth time but I feel should mention it )
There's this case about a person who was manhandled by Railway officials and was later pressurised to take back his case .. Please see this thread .. You covered IIPM incident nicely so we show the faith again for our fellow blogger in trouble . ..
Take care ..

Chennai chatter said...

Amazing post. Very nicely written, and I believe it should be better reading than watching. In anycase, please do let me know I can get it online..

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Balaji,
Thanks for stopping by. I think the use of stars can be very effective especially in in a country like india, but thats only if the stars are sincere and committed to the cause they are promoting. Richard Gere is as famous today as a Buddhist and AIDS crusader as he is as an actor, but its only because there is a level of commitment and it shows. For instance, he doesnt entertain lifestyle and womens magazines on questions regarding his acting career, if he is on an AIDS related tour. Also, he has lost nearly a 100 friends from the movie industry to HIV, so he is dead serious (pun unintended) about spreading awareness. There are lots of other people who carry on the good work when he leaves, but the reason we pay him attention is because he is a star. So yeah... this brand ambassador thing definitely works, if there is sincerity.

Hi Isatz,
Unfortunately they have not transcribed the interview and posted it online. I can tell you that one of the things he said was that he feels pessimistic when he looks at the Indian governments response to the disease.

Thanks Shahab, will take a look at the link.

Thanks a lot Chennai chatter - i looked for it online, but they dont seem to have transcribed it :(

Anonymous said...

SO you work for that Lala. You are lucky not to be in Delhi.

Anonymous said...

lucky girl ... i am sure Gere also must be thinking himself lucky after meeting you...


Anonymous said...

Good to hear about the i/v with gere. I have seen on the aiport couple of times. Anyways quick question/thought. how come only when hollywood strikes us we suddenly realise the importance of any kind of disease(for example, HIV) in this case. If i remember right Shabana Azmi used to vouch for it on Doordarshan(when i was a kid and still does on and off i think) and a recogonition is required!

I am not part of PMK or Shivsena or CPI(M)shouting anit-indian slogans. Just a thought of mine. Richard Gere is doing a good cause and my concern is that stars in india who have been fighting for this cause should not be overshadowed as well...

BTW, welcome to SMA groups. School days were good!!

SR said...

you should've asked him what it feels like to be the world's famousest felcher!
bet he wouldnt have any snappy comebacks for that one!