Amol Palekar silenced at Mumbai event; it’s a bad mannerism!

Amol Palekar

It’s unfortunate that the “plain-looking” actor who redefined the image of Bollywood “hero” in 70’s– the Marathi Manush– Amol Palekar, was shamefully cut off and heckled while delivering a speech at an event in Mumbai, in his home state.

Palekar, who was invited to speak at the National Gallery of Modern Art event, held in Mumbai recently, was ordered to stop his speech midway and not allowed to criticise the government!

In a democratic system such things should not be happened and be encouraged that other side of thoughts get a space for a check and balance. However, when he stood to speak he was interrupted several times and asked to cut short his speech.

Palekar reacted, “We were told by the curator after my speech was interrupted that she was told by the director that I would not be permitted to make any anti-government statements. It was clear that the director was under pressure.”

Palekar, didn’t identify any political outfit for stifling dissent, but said that free speech was being censored in different ways and forms. They said it was not about blaming any party but about intolerance to anti-establishment views.

He said individual freedom and free speech have been facing attacks in the recent past. Palekar and his wife, Sandhya, who was at the event, has filed a case in the Bombay High Court, challenging how only the Maharashtra and Gujarat governments are asking for plays to be certified before being allowed to perform.

Palekar, who is a professional painter too, was speaking at the inaugural event of the exhibition named ‘Inside the Empty Box’, organised in the memory of the renowned artist Prabhakar Barve. In prepared remarks, he spoke of the “loss of independence” in the art gallery’s ways of functioning. The NGMA, which until October last year, had an active ‘advisory committee of local artists’ to decide on the different exhibitions to be organised at the two centres of the gallery in Mumbai and Bangalore, is now being controlled directly by the Ministry of Culture, Palekar said.

The arbitrary decision was taken by the ministry and the local artists’ committee that was elected for a period of three years has now been dissolved. The committee, until October, was responsible for selecting the various exhibitions that have been arranged at the art gallery for decades. The dissolution of the committee would mean that the exhibitions and other decisions at the gallery would be solely the Ministry of Culture’s discretion with the artist fraternity losing its right to decide on the gallery’s daily functioning.

On Friday evening, as Palekar began his speech in memory of his old friend Barve, he expressed his concern over the recent decision to dissolve the committee. As he continued to speak, he was stopped by the curator of the show, the noted artist and ex-chairman of the advisory committee Suhas Bahulikar and NGMA’s present director Anita Rupavataram. He requested to stick to “Barve’s work”. To which, Palekar retorted: “Are you trying to stop me from speaking and applying censorship on my speech? If you don’t want me to speak, I won’t speak.”

But when Palekar was once again interrupted, he mockingly added, “You say you are not censoring. You say you are only requesting… Don’t speak this, don’t speak that. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that,” as the audience clapped. The interruption persisted as Palekar spoke and while respecting the curator’s wish, he had to finally shorten his speech.

It was also a sad part for the state that a Marathi manush, Palekar, who created waves, despite being a simple and straightforward film, Rajnigandha, during the era of the “angry young man”, which was at its peak after Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer and the superstar Rajesh Khanna’s magic was still working in 70s, be heckled and not allowed to speak by his own people in Mumbai.

An ordinary-looking, unassertive, shy and modest attire, “the boy next door”, Palekar, who gave hits Rajnigandha, Chhoti Si Baat, Chitchor, Golmaal, Naram Garam, should not expect such behaviour from the people of Mumbai. Moreover, it is considered to be bad manners to talk with a person, like Palekar, from such a dais!