Veteran actor-director Amol Palekar was repeatedly interrupted during his speech by some members of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Mumbai on Friday evening. Palekar was speaking at the opening of an exhibition “Inside The Empty Box” in the memory of artist Prabhakar Barwe. A video available on social media showed Palekar criticising the Ministry of Culture for reportedly scrapping the advisory committees at the gallery’s Mumbai and Bengaluru centres.
Referring to these reports, Palekar said, “Many of you may not know that this retrospective will be the last show decided by the advisory committee of local artists and not by some bureaucrat or an agent of the government with an agenda of either moral policing or proliferation of certain art commensurate with an ideological incline.
“As of November 13, 2018, the artistes’ advisory committees at both regional centres Mumbai and Bangalore — have been abolished, is what I have learnt,” he said. He added that he was “in the process of verifying the hearsay”.
Just got this video of one of my favourite actors, Amol Palekar, being cut off while ruing the loss of independence in art at @mumbai_ngma simply because he seemed critical of a Ministry of Culture/NGMA decision.February 9, 2019
At this point, an NGMA member on the stage interrupted, saying that Palekar should talk about the event.
To which, Palekar responded, “I am going to talk about the same. Are you applying censorship to that?” He then said that as per his information, after the abolition of local artists’ committee, decisions as to whose work should be exhibited would be taken from Delhi by the Ministry of Culture.
He was again interrupted by a woman, who said, “This is not needed at the moment, sorry... The function is about Prabhakar Barwe, please stick to that.”
However, Palekar refused to stop, and went on to mention that writer Nayantara Sahgal was invited to speak at the Marathi literary convention recently but at the last minute the invitation was withdrawn because what she was going to say “was slightly critical of the situation around us”.
“Are we creating the same situation here?” he asked.
Speaking to the media later, he said, “The director was present there and she even said that I should have spoken to her before speaking this here. I replied whether my script would be censored before I speak. I even told them that I wanted to thank the Ministry of Culture for the magnanimity of culture for showing this exhibition. She said she doesn’t want any backhand compliment like this and left.”