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Gagged, Palekar Hits Out at Event Organisers; Oppn Joins Chorus to Slam 'Censorship'

Palekar said he was merely talking about the changed rules of the NGMA and that there was nothing objectionable in what he said during the speech.


Updated:February 10, 2019, 7:05 PM IST
Gagged, Palekar Hits Out at Event Organisers; Oppn Joins Chorus to Slam 'Censorship'
Veteran actor Amol Palekar at a press conference in Pune on Feb 10, 2019.

New Delhi: After being repeatedly interrupted and forced to cut short his speech on Friday by some members of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai, veteran actor-director Amol Palekar on Sunday said he was only trying to seek reasons behind the cancellation of retrospectives of two senior artists.

Retrospective is an exhibition or compilation showing the development of an artist's work over a period of time.

At the opening of an exhibition in the memory of artist Prabhakar Barwe on Friday evening, the actor was constantly urged “to stick” to the topic of the event.

Palekar, who held a press conference in Pune, said he was merely talking about changed rules of the NGMA and that there was nothing objectionable in what he said during the speech.

He said that if the NGMA wanted him to talk only about the inauguration ceremony, then he should have been notified beforehand.

The actor, who is also a painter, said the artistes' advisory committee at NGMA had approved holding of retrospectives of three artists, of whom Prabhakar Barwe's work was inaugurated.

“But I came to know that without any communication to the committee, the next two retrospectives have been cancelled by Mumbai NGMA's new director Anita Rupavataram. I wanted to raise these issues. How and when these decisions were taken, we wanted to know," he said.

Palekar said he was told that four floors of NGMA would now be used for displaying the works and the dome (fifth floor) will showcase only fresh exhibitions.

"It is shocking. Propriety of my comments is being objected to by NGMA. As I was talking about NGMA at their own venue and invited by the gallery itself, how can it be improper?" he wondered.

He said, “I was not given a brief of what to speak and what not to, so the question doesn’t arise in the first place. The curator (Jesal Thacker) herself confirmed that she had not given me any such instructions.”

However, Thacker in a quote to India Today, said, there was no intention to oppose his views, but to focus on Barwe. “I may be in agreement with his views… but as the evening was about Bharwe and I had done beautiful interviews about him with Palekar, crowd too would have got a chance to have an insight on Barwe in the light of Palekar… He made his point about NGMA and the issues, but when he was going into details, I felt may be the details could be about Barwe.”

The thespian said, “The director of the gallery was present and told me that I should have spoken to her before speaking about this here. I replied if my script would be censored before I speak.”

Despite being interrupted, Palekar went on to talk about how writer Nayantara Sahgal too was invited to speak at a Marathi literary convention recently, but the invitation was withdrawn at the last minute as her speech could be "slightly critical of the situation around us."

"Are we creating the same situation here?" he asked.

Palekar's wife Sandhya Gokhale, who was present at the press meet, said the incident underlines the intolerance and suppression of freedom of expression prevalent in our country.

Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said this was not an isolated incident and that it was being "deliberately" done for last five years.

He sought to draw a parallel between the incident involving Palekar and several earlier alleged attacks by right wing organisations on artists, social thinkers and public personalities who had criticised the BJP-led government.

Congress leader Kapil Sibal said this is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi refers to while talking about "new India".

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said the BJP wanted to make the country “colorless” and the incident revealed the ruling party’s fears.

CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the incident is undemocratic and highly condemnable. “The whole essence of our democracy, our constitutional rights, is the freedom to criticise the government and its leaders. No one is above criticism. This behaviour with Amol Palekar is undemocratic and highly condemnable,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Aam Aadmi Party's Alka Lamba too slammed the organisers over the incident.

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