PUNE: “There are many different forms of imposing censorship and control. Having faced one in Mumbai yesterday, I will continue to fight my battle for the freedom of speech,” said veteran actor Amol Palekar on Sunday.
Raising questions over the issues pertaining to censorship and freedom of speech, Palekar and his wife and screenplay writer Sandhya Gokhale interacted with the media in the city regarding the incident at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Mumbai where his speech was interrupted by the organisers.While Palekar was delivering his address at the NGMA at the opening of a retrospective exhibition in memory of artist Prabhakar Barwe, he was interrupted repeatedly by NGMA Director Anita Rupavataram over the content of his speech.
Palekar said he was asked to stick to talking about Barwe only when the speech began taking a critical turn over the recent functioning and decisions of NGMA.
“According to what I had heard and confirmed before the event, this might have been the last retrospective held at that venue. When I enquired, I came to know that this will be the last retrospective to be organised on all the five floors of NGMA. From now on, only the fifth floor, which is a dome, will be provided to retrospectives and such exhibitions. The rest of the building will only be utilised for the works associated directly with NGMA,” Palekar said.
Palekar said he was shocked that the proposed retrospectives of two other artistes Sudhir Patwardhan and Mehlli Gobhai, that were earlier approved, have been cancelled.
“If I cannot speak about these issues at the NGMA during a retrospective, where else should I voice it? The Director kept telling me to ‘stick to Barwe’, and said that I could have talked about this to her in her cabin. Why is it appropriate to speak about this in the cabin, and not on a stage?,” questioned Palekar.
Gokhale, who was present during the event said Palekar gave an aesthetic appreciation of Barwe’s work at the beginning of his address, and later moved to the NGMA’s decisions.
Amol Palekar told the media, “You need to tell the speaker beforehand if you want to determine what he/she can or cannot speak at your event. The curator of the exhibition Jesal Thacker did not mention any such thing while inviting me. Had she done that, I would have politely denied the invitation. You cannot censor someone’s speech after inviting them to speak at the event.”
Adwait Gadanayak, Director General, National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), issued a statement on the issue, The committees are in the process of being reconstituted. The recommendations of previous Advisory Committees will be honoured and exhibitions of artists will happen as proposed. The new advisory committee will take a decision relating to future exhibitions. Regarding permanent collections, it is clarified that NGMA proposes to display its own collections initially over a two year period. NGMA is deliberating on suggestions received from artists, and a final decision will be taken shortly in consultation with all stakeholders.”