The veteran actor-turned-filmmaker Amol Palekar is miffed at being interrupted by members of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) during his speech. At the inauguration of an exhibition Inside the Empty Box, in the memory of the renowned artist Prabhakar Barwe, Palekar took a critical view of the Union Ministry of Culture’s decision to remove the advisory committee of local artists in the Mumbai and the Bangalore branches of the gallery. But before he could wrap up his speech, the curator and the director of the gallery interrupted him and asked him to stick to talking about Barwe. “I was disturbed. They’re breaking all norms of decency, so I was disturbed. But I kept my composure and maintained my decorum although the line of decency was crossed on stage,” recounts Palekar on what he felt at the moment.
As the video recording of the incident went viral on the Internet, it also sparked a debate on the strengthening breach of the freedom of expression and political censorship. While in the video, the curator Jesal Thacker is heard telling him not to digress from the topic, according to Palekar, the occasion was apt for him to address these issues. “My argument is, in fact, this was just the right platform to raise the issue because I was raising questions related to the NGMA. I mean, if I don’t raise questions on the workings of the NGMA at the NGMA, then where should I raise them? Should I raise them at a private dinner at the dining table?” he quips. Moreover, he expressed his disappointment by revealing, “One of them recited some of my lines from one of my films. I think they expected me to recite some lines from my Golmaal and all that. I think I was expected to say my bit as an actor and disappear.”
The actor-activist has been critical of censorship for decades, fighting the first case against it in the late 1960s or early 1970s and has also filed petitions in Supreme Court. Talking on the subject, the veteran actor feels that the hold of censorship has increased, “I’d say censorship now is increased manifold as compared to earlier on. I have petitioned in the Supreme Court against censorship in cinema. In the Mumbai High court, I’ve petitioned against censorship in theatre. I’ve been fighting censorship all my life. And I will continue to do so.”