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"I Felt Hurt By Husain"

AN interview with Ashok Vajpeyi, bureau -crat and chairman of Bharat Bhawan

"I Felt Hurt By Husain"

What do you think of the controversy regarding your appointment?

First of all, I wasn't appointed, I was elected by a panel of people comprising Habib Tanvir, Manjit Bawa, Shabana Azmi, U.R. Ananthamurthy and others. I felt slightly hurt by Husain's statement although hecame all the way from Indore to Bhopal to tell me that the statement was factually wrong. He had been pressurised into it by the media. But I felt that the fact that I am a poet in my own right was totally ignored. My name is in the Bharat Bhawan list not as a bureaucrat, but because I am a writer.

Do you think bureaucrats should head cultural centres?

There is a dearth of 'artocrats' in India—the American word for managers of culture. When Ravi Shankar was offered the directorship of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, I advised him to say no because he may not find the time, he was not used to the system and because his appointment mayraise too many expectations that he may not be able to fulfil. At the policy-making level, sure artists need to be involved. But there should be a combination of the two.

Will the Government control culture in the future?

But increasingly, it is only the mediocre who look to the state. Eminent painters like Husain and Bawa and others do not look to the Lalit Kala Akademi. Even now the state does not play a dominant role. It is not adequately appreciated that bureaucrats do not arbitrarily give out funds to those it likes. There are always experts on every panel. The artistic community plays an important role.


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