Actor and director Amol Palekar, whose speech was allegedly cut short when he criticised the culture ministry at an event at Mumbai’s National Gallery of Modern Art on Friday, said the gallery’s director told him that he should have spoken to her before voicing his dissent.
“The director was present there and she even said that I should have spoken to her before speaking,” Palekar told reporters on Sunday at a press conference in Pune. “I even asked whether my script would be censored before I speak.”
According to Palekar, he told them that he wanted to thank the Ministry of Culture for the “magnanimity”. “But she [the director] said she doesn’t want any backhanded compliment like this and left,” Palekar said.
The actor said the NGMA is objecting to the propriety of his comments. “As I was talking about NGMA at their own venue and invited by the gallery itself, how can it be improper?” he said.
Palekar was speaking at the opening of an exhibition “Inside The Empty Box” in memory of artist Prabhakar Barwe. A video circulating on social media showed Palekar criticising the Ministry of Culture for reportedly scrapping the advisory committees at the gallery’s Mumbai and Bengaluru centres.
Palekar was repeatedly interrupted during his speech by other people on the dais, including the curator Jesal Thacker and Suhas Bahulkar, chairman of the previous advisory committee in Mumbai. They asked him to confine his speech to Barwe, Palekar had told Scroll.in. At one point, he asked them if they were “applying censorship” to his speech.
During his speech, Palekar said, “In 2017, we were happy to hear about the plan to open new NGMA branches in Kolkata and in the North East. News of the expansion of this Mumbai venue was also heartening. However, on 13 November, 2018, another disastrous decision was apparently taken.”
At this, Thacker again interrupted Palekar and asked him to confine his speech to Barwe’s work. “Are you asking me not to speak?” Palekar asked her.
He then reminded the audience that writer Nayantara Sahgal was invited to speak at a literary meet in Yavatmal, but that the invitation was withdrawn by the organisers last month who said they wished to “avoid any untoward incident and in view of the controversy that has cropped up against her name”. Palekar then asked, “Are we creating the same situation here? You are asking me not to speak? I will not speak.”
Thacker reiterated that Palekar should “stick to Barwe”. The actor described what was happening to him as censorship, at which Thacker and Bahulkar protested, saying they were merely making a request.
In a statement on Saturday, Jesal Thacker said she had requested him to share more about his anecdotes and fond memories of Barwe. “Views that are not directly related to the subject of the evening – the art and life of Barwe – can always be expressed at another platform appropriate for that specific concern,” Thacker said.