Why are Goan artists silent?

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
25 August 2010 22:46 IST

Should we thank Girish Karnad, or should we feel ashamed of us - Goans?

Karnad, the renowned actor and writer, refused to be on Goa's prestigious Goa Development Council in protest of humiliating treatment meted out to Goa's reputed artist and Sanskrit scholar Jose Pereira. When a tiny group of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti cried that Jose-bab had hurt their religious sentiments through his painting, the tears apparently flowed down the cheeks of our state authorities. The police came on the spot and bluntly suggested the organisers - it's advisable if you shut the exhibition!

Viva Democracy!! (?) Viva Freedom of Expression (??)!!!

Except handful of artists and thinkers who protested, the MAJORITY artist community remained tight lipped over the issue.

In fact some of them even gave weird reactions, like "I support Karnad's opinion, but he should have not taken such a drastic step of resigning from the Council."

Whom were they supporting? Karnad; or chief minister Digambar Kamat? The bold protestor; or the ‘power'ful ruler?

And what did our chief minister do to persuade Karnad to withdraw his resignation? Karnad claims he has withdrawn his resignation because the CM called him up and assured him to safeguard the interest of artists in future. When a local TV channel asked Digambar-bab, he shot back: "What assurance? I just spoke to him and requested him to withdraw his resignation. No assurance given."

Who is ‘double speak'? The fearless Karnad or the nervous Digambar?

And this is not the first time we have witnessed such kind of scenario in Goa. It happened when today's PWD minister Churchill Alemao had publicly expressed that ‘Da Vinci Code' movie should not be screened. It was banned in Goa!

It again happened during IFFI two years ago when the same HJS and Sanatan objected to Films Division's 44-year old documentary by M F Hussain. It had nothing objectionable in it. But still our ‘pro-people' chief minister obliged them and requested the organisers not to screen it. It was a different story that a large number of nationally and internationally reputed delegates forced the organisers to screen it later.

It also happened when our own Subodh Kerkar's paintings were objected to, by the same HJS and Sanatan. He was provided police protection only when HE asked for it. The state authorities did not take a pro-active stand to protect his "objectionable" paintings.

A major issue arise here. What does the state government stand for? Freedom of expression; or Fanaticism?

I have a reason to say this. Our chief minister is very much proud of the fact that he is the FIRST minister in the country to formulate a Cultural Policy of the State. Even we are proud of him for such a bold step. He also rightly seizes every opportunity to assure that he would stand by the policy and implement it.

What does the policy say?

Its Preamble on No 1 has a sub-section as 1.1. It states: "The Government of Goa recognizes the fact that Cultural rights are human rights."

The same sub-section also lists out eight ‘Principles of Cultural Policy.' The first three among them are:

The cultural policy is :-
- for the citizens to achieve individual creativity
- to ensure equality of access to cultural life
- to safeguard freedom of expression

That's not enough. It has a special section, at 2.3, called Creation. Its first three statements are:

2.3 Creation
(a) The government is fully committed to respect and protect the creative freedom of the artists and
writers as guaranteed by the constitution of India and within the limits set out by the laws of the country.
(b) The government would welcome new initiatives by the artists and writers and the NGOs dedicated
to their cause.
(c) The government of Goa is dedicated to spot creative cultural talent and would encourage novelty,
innovation and creativity in all the spheres of state's cultural life.

The question is very very simple. How does chief minister Digambar Kamat view all the developments, from ‘Da Vinci Code' film to M F Hussain documentary to Subodh Kerkar's paintings to Jose Pereira's  paintings vis-à-vis his ‘proud' Cultural Policy?

Does it match or contradict?

Have the cultural rights been protected as human rights?

No doubt any cultural expression is free for criticism. Especially if it is an innovative or new experiment, it is bound to receive more criticism. But what was objected here was nothing new or innovative. It was simply repetitive, but in artistic form.

‘Da Vinci Code' was a film based on a bestseller book of 2003 by Dan Brown, which was translated in 44 languages all over the world. The book was neither objected to nor was banned. The film was released three years later, after over 80 million books were sold and were read by many more.

M F Hussain's film ‘Through the eyes of a painter' was a documentary he produced in 1966 about his experiences in Rajasthan. It had won the prestigious Golden Bear award at the Berlin film festival the same year. The screening of this film was stopped at the 39th IFFI in 2008, almost after 42 years.

Subodh Kerkar's creative paintings on Lord Ganesh were also objected to, claiming that it is an insult to Hindu religion. Subodh claims his paintings are creative expression of his imagination without intending any insult to the Almighty God he believes in and worships.

Dr Jose Pereira's painting of Lord Krishna is based on the famous scripture ‘Geet Govind'. The Sanskrit scholar fully defends his painting by quoting the famous and most respected book.

In spite of this, the ‘Government of Cultural Policy' adopted a lenient stand on these issues, by suppressing the human rights they claim to be standing for.

Of course, no doubt, such art forms could be objected to by those who take extreme stands on such issues. They have a right to object. It's their freedom of expression. That's the reason the media publishes or telecasts both the views.

But what does the government stand for, when such a situation arises? Surrender before the extremists without even studying the issue, or uphold the human right which they claim for in their Cultural Policy?

On the other hand, I really wonder sometimes whether the organizations like Sanatan Saunstha or the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti sincerely practice what they stand for.

When I go to Canacona, at Karmal Ghat, I see a new Ganapati temple-cum-shade mushroomed on the roadside just because one root of this tree looked like a trunk of Lord Ganesh. On every Tuesday, in contravention of the Supreme Court order, the so called devotees block the road on this dangerous Ghat and perform a Mahapooja. Not a single member of the Sanatan or HJS has objected to this anti-human nuisance in the name of God on a public road. It is the same organization that has rightfully objected to the extortionist activities of youth in the name of Narkasur night, during Diwali.

The same people also pull hundreds of chariots (Rath) in Goan temples, which have nude pictures in compromising positions painted or carved on these chariots. Don't they find anything objectionable in it?  

Why such a discrimination? I asked this question to the leader of Sanatan Saunstha during a TV debate I recently had on Prudent. His answer was simple: "Nobody has brought it to our notice till date."


Strange! And I would find it more strange if they won't raise their voice against it even after admitting it that it has been now publicly brought to their notice. 


The most surprising position I find amidst these controversies is by the artists of Goa. Hardly anybody has come forward to take a firm position and educate the confused Goan audience over these issues. Does their strange silence mean they support the Sanatan stand, or they have no stand at all on such issues? Doesn't it concern them when their own art form is being threatened by a handful of fanatics?


Why are the artists of Goa silent? Who will educate us if they keep quiet? Why should Goa wait till artists like Girish Karnad wakes up? Why they are silent even after Karnad raises his voice? Don't they agree with him? Yes; silence speaks a lot. Is this silence a consent? What does their silence mean? 

And because of this, a sincere question  occurs in my mind: Should we thank Girish Karnad, or should we feel ashamed of us - Goans?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Blogger's Profile

Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of Prudent & Goa365, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities. After retirement from day-to-day journalism in 2020, he is into Re-Search Journalism (पुनर्सोद पत्रकारिता), focusing on analytical articles, Video programs & Books.

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I think your question is like the proverbial tip of an iceberg. Anger is the tip while passion is the iceberg that remains hidden under water. Nevertheless, I will answer and make it applicable for the whole submerged ‘frozen in time’ Goan character. I suppose core of Goan character is its complacency which has been built up over centuries ever since this land has been identified as a ‘settlement’ zone by you, me and ‘bhayale’. This complacency has further developed into the sussegado character and worse procrastination (falyam polovchem tem) of and by Goans. I always found while growing up in Mapusa, my karma bhumi lied outside Goa, simply because I found Goans by and large are not passionate. My friends, neighbours, teachers and immediate family were not interested in discussing about philosophy, science, critiques on literature or even my ideas of what I should do in ‘my’ future. Passion in any field makes the person talk vehemently about it. To agree or not is immaterial but willingness to talk primarily needs interest. I used to challenge the concept of soul, God, religion, caste, destiny and at lower levels, Maratha king Shivaji, Moghuls, Bertrand Russell, theory of evolution, migrations into India, name them and I was interested. I have always loved science but my mathematics remained very much primitive because nobody thought all this matters to excel in life. The preparations and coaching are needed to build up a career. The grit, the determination, channelling of one’s resources and tackling failures need bringing up and guidance from family and school teachers. Consider Swapnil Asnodkar. The only niz Goemkar to play in IPL, who was a fine player but never built up his physic and stamina. Unfortunately, to exaggerate Goa cricket is like one played in bhatukali a game children play where xit kodi is enough.

The talent does exist in Goa, but it needs nursing and passion. Even passion may lurk in some corner of Goa but not all around. An example of my own family: Late Mr. Raghuvir Sawkar, younger brother of my grandfather ran away from the house in Mapusa to Mumbai to follow a career on Marathi stage. He floated a company which sank in no time, but I do appreciate him and his son Prasad Sawkar who in spite of his father’s failure did follow his footsteps and joined the Marathi stage. [We at home do say fondly, thank Gods, he did not set up a company of his own] Now at age 80, Mr. Prasad Sawkar is not counting stars, but his passion for stage has made him stage a play and take tours in Europe and USA!

One of my uncles, a first cousin of Mr. Prasad Sawkar, was a fine actor on Marathi stage or more than that a sensitive director and had won any awards in his time. However, when he was offered a role in a Marathi movie ‘Thaamb Laxmi Kunku Lavate’ he refused it. Why? I always felt it even though I did not enjoy stage at all. The role to the best of my information went to Suryakant who was very popular at that time.

In short, only passion gets angry, and gets ahead, plain talent does not. How many Goans artists are passionate except Subodh Kerkar who chucked his medical career. How many?

One last point: no Goan artist has been stirred up by your question as well?

- Kalidas Sawkar, Panaji Goa | 27 th August 2010 13:51


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