Amol Palekar is one of the rare artistes who has spoken out against the present government’s aversion to dissent. The veteran actor was in Mumbai to talk about his return to acting in theatre after 25 years with the play Kusur adapted by Sandhya Gokhale. During the conversation Palekar also spoke about how he had stood up against the Emergency in the 70s and how the state’s curbing of dissent is different now.
Amol Palekar: “Any dissent or any protest in those days also was not looked at favourably by the powers, by the government. I was one of those few ones who stood up against Emergency, so in that sense, I was against Congress, I was against Indira Gandhi. But, because I was against it, I was not made to feel “anti-national” as today it is being immediately done.”
“On the issue of a small thing, we can call it as a censorship – not allowing somebody to talk, not allowing somebody to express his or her opinion, honestly and as freely as one wants to, was not looked at as an anti-national activity. If you don’t agree with the government, it does not make you anti-national is where I come from. I have a different way of looking at things, I don’t agree with you and let me express this is where I differ. So there is a difference.”Amol Palekar
“We have been fighting against censorship at both the levels – at the state level for censorship against theatre in Maharashtra. It is so funny that there is a censorship against theatre only in two states – Maharashtra and Gujarat, nowhere else in the country. As if to say, this Hindi play Kusur, I can go and perform in Delhi without any pre-censorship, but I cannot perform it in Bombay without getting a certification. Now these are small issues, but important issues as an artist and we have been fighting them. We are also fighting in Supreme Court against film censorship.”
Sandhya Gokhale: “See there is no place for dissent which is very disturbing and that is our fundamental right. It has nothing to do with which party, it has to do with which establishment, because the autocratic tendencies are with the establishment. Once you get power, then there is the tendency to have this autocratic rule. We as citizens, each one, have to have the right to dissent.”
“All the small point that he was trying to make there (at NGMA) and it's so sad and ironic that if they had not interrupted, nobody would have, like 25 people who were there probably they would have just gone home with what he said. But then the issue is so pertinent, that artists whose retrospectives and exhibitions were cancelled without any kind of pre-consultation or whatever, or for any reason, they didn't speak out and Mr Palekar made a point that this NGMA is sacrosanct for art and if that place if you are saying that only govt owned paintings will be shown, local artist's paintings won't be shown or the dome will be restricted only to local artists and rest of the theatre... I mean why such restrictions? There has to be a public debate and we as citizens and tax payers, we have the right to question that. That is a small point that he was trying to make and they wouldn't even let him speak. I mean that is sad.”
“And it's very ironic, I am fighting against censorship in Bombay High Court and Supreme Court nonetheless I had to submit my script to the board to get the certificate that they can perform. It's an irony, because at this point that is the rule and I am a law-abiding citizen so I did submit it but I submitted under protest. I'm very sure that we'll win the matter.”
Amol Palekar will be returning to acting on stage after 25 years in the play Kusur. Presented by Book My Show, the first show of the play will be held at NCPA, Mumbai on 24 November.