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Time to confront the govt, say Amol Palekar, Sandhya Gokhale

Indian Express 2019-02-11 05:59:48
Amol Palekar and Sandhya Gokhale at the press conference in Pune on Sunday. Ashish Kale

ACTOR Amol Palekar and his screenwriter wife Sandhya Gokhale said on Sunday that it was important to confront the government regarding the change of rules pertaining to art exhibitions at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), run by the Ministry of Culture. They said, if need be, they will “seek answers from the government regarding the arbitrary policy change”.

Palekar and Gokhale addressed the media in Pune on Sunday, in the backdrop of the NGMA incident on Friday when his speech, as a chief guest at the inauguration of a retrospective of artist Prabhakar Barve, was interrupted by organisers when he started voicing critical opinion about the recent changes in the gallery’s administration.

Palekar also expressed his dismay over the reaction of artists during and after the incident.

“When I wrote the speech to be delivered at the inauguration and included these pertinent issues about running of the NGMA, I thought that I will be applauded by the artists on the dais and in the audience for raising the issues affecting them. However, when artists like Suhas Bahulkar and Jesal Thacker requested me to stop and interrupted my speech, I was shocked,” said Palekar.

Sandhya Gokhale said: “We think that it is important to confront the government regarding the change of rules about holding art exhibitions at the National Gallery of Modern Art. If needed, we will seek answers from the government regarding the arbitrary policy change.”

Palekar said he had not received any instructions from the organisers conveying to him that he could not be critical about government policies. He said he would have rejected the invitation if any such message had been conveyed to him. “There are some who are saying it was improper for me to raise the issues at that platform as the event was to celebrate an artist who didn’t get his due. I must state here that I spoke at length about Barve and also shared a few anecdotes before turning to the issues pertaining to the management of the NGMA. Also, the organisers or curator of the exhibition, Jesal Thacker, had not conveyed to me while inviting me that I should not speak about any such issues at the event. So, I spoke what I thought was pertinent and they had no right to censor my speech,” said Palekar.

He added that although he did not wish to, he had to cut his speech short. “According to what I had heard and confirmed before the event, a disastrous decision was apparently taken, which meant that all future exhibitions of artworks not from NGMA’s own collection, would be allotted only 1/6th of the area in NGMA, Mumbai, restricting those only to the Dome area,” Palekar said.

He said it was a shock to him, and many other artists. “While we would love to see the artworks presented by NGMA, why do they want to create such an either-or situation?” he said.

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Palekar also mentioned that he was shocked that the proposed retrospectives of two other artists, Sudhir Patwardhan and Mehlli Gobhai, which had been approved earlier, have been cancelled. Adwait Gadnayak, the director general, NGMA, issued a clarification refuting several allegations levelled by Palekar. “The new advisory committee will take a decision related to future exhibitions. Regarding permanent collections, it is clarified that NGMA proposes to display its own collections initially over a two-year period. Some artists have expressed their apprehensions about availability of less space for temporary exhibitions and retrospectives. NGMA is deliberating on suggestions received from artists, and a final decision will be taken shortly,” he said.