His last big release — Paheli (2006) — was India’s official entry to the Oscars. But since then, Amol Palekar, famous for acting in films like Chhoti Si Baat (1975), Baaton Baaton Mein (1979) and Gol Maal (1975), among others, has been lying low. Now the actor-film-maker, who started his career as an artist before moving to theatre and eventually to cinema, is back in the spotlight, this time with a painting exhibition.
Ask him why he doesn’t make movies anymore, and he says, “The scenario has changed — the magnitude and the money quotient are so high nowadays that I feel suffocated.” Reminiscing the old days, he shares that in the ’70s and ’80s, for every mainstream Manmohan Desai and Amitabh Bachchan film, there was a parallel Amol Palekar and Hrishikesh Mukherjee film and a Dara Singh-starrer action film. All genres happily co-existed. “But now, parallel films are almost like exceptions,” he rues.
Talking about the business of cinema today, the 70-year-old actor shares that he isn’t comfortable with the excessive promotional activities employed for films these days, another reason why he prefers to stay away from big films. “Today, if you don’t shout from the rooftops, your voice won’t be heard,” he says.
But he doesn’t mind being part of small projects. “I’m extremely proud to have done these films obdurately. You won’t even know the names of these films,” he says, adding, “It’s unfortunate that such films aren’t promoted alongside mainstream movies.”
Palekar, who is exhibiting his artwork after almost three decades, says that he returned to painting seriously only in the past year-and-a-half. “But when I started again, there was no urge to show my work. That thought came much later. I’m displaying over 30 abstract oil paintings on canvas. These are all paintings that I made this year.”
His body of work is divided into three series – Trickle, Reflections and Demure – and though there are distinct differences between the three, he says that the audience will be able to tell they belong to the same artist. For Palekar, dealing with space has always been an inspiration, irrespective of the medium.
“When I started doing theatre, I handled space in three dimensions. There were also the elements of sound and the human body itself. I started feeling constrained within the confines of the proscenium arch, so around 1972, along with other Marathi theatre personalities, I took theatre into open spaces,” he says, adding, “Now, even in art, boundaries between various forms of expression have blurred, so for me, returning to painting means a circle has been completed.”
Among the works on display is a large canvas, that, Palekar admits, took him over a month to complete. “I would stand in front of the blank canvas every morning for almost a week. I knew what I wanted to do, but where to start was a point I kept debating,” he recalls.
With this show set to travel across the country up till October 2015, Palekar isn’t thinking further ahead. He is, however, excited about continuing to paint. “I wake up thinking of my canvas, and whether there’s an unfinished one that I’ve left the previous night. It’s a nice feeling,” he says, adding, “I suppose having gone through three different mediums, this is now my fourth innings. Not many people get such an opportunity.”