The National Gallery of Modern Art on Sunday denied Amol Palekar's allegation that the advisory panel of the gallery's Mumbai and Bengaluru centres have been scrapped, as a controversy erupted over the veteran actor's speech at a Mumbai event being repeatedly interrupted by some NGMA members.
A video available on social media purportedly showed Mr Palekar criticising the Ministry of Culture at the opening of an exhibition in memory of artist Prabhakar Barwe on February 8 for reportedly scrapping the advisory committees at the gallery's Mumbai and Bengaluru centres.
The actor-director on Sunday said he was only trying to seek reasons behind the cancellation of retrospectives of two senior artists.
Later, NGMA Director General Adwaita Gadanayak said, "Regarding recent reports in media pertaining to NGMA Mumbai, it is clarified as under - the advisory committees of NGMA Mumbai, Bangaluru and Delhi have not been dissolved. Their terms have ended recently and they are in the process of being reconstituted."
"The recommendations of previous advisory committee will be honoured and exhibitions of artists will happen as proposed. The new advisory committee will take a decision relating to future exhibitions," he said.
Mr Palekar told reporters in Pune on Sunday that the artists' advisory committee at NGMA had approved holding of retrospectives of three artists, of whom Prabhakar Barwe's work was inaugurated.
"But I came to know that without any communication to the committee, the next two retrospectives have been cancelled by Mumbai NGMA's new director Anita Rupavataram. I wanted to raise these issues. How and when these decisions were taken, we wanted to know," he said.
Several came out criticising the NGMA, which is under the Ministry of Culture. "Why does the BJP want to police people's thoughts and opinions and control what they eat, wear, say and do? They want to make India monochrome and colourless. Telling Palekar to stop speaking shows the nervousness of the government," Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant claimed this was not an isolated incident and it was being "deliberately" done for last five years.
He sought to draw a parallel between the incident involving Mr Palekar and several earlier attacks allegedly by right wing organisations on artists, social thinkers and public personalities who had criticised the BJP-led government.
"For the last five years, this government could not tolerate any criticism from various sections of society. Their priority has been towards suppressing the dissent and threatening those who follow a different school of thought," Mr Sawant said.