Not long after the Shiv Sena and MNS opposed and stalled a fashion show scheduled to be held at the Bhui Daji Lad museum in Byculla, the elected representatives of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on Friday passed a resolution giving the civic body greater control over the affairs of the museum. Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, managing trustee and honorary director of the Bhau Daji Lad museum, speaks to Tanushree Venkatraman about the municipality’s sudden interest in the museum, the resolution, and the road ahead.
What does the new resolution mean for the trust? Will it reduce your hold over the museum’s affairs?
Legally speaking, since it is a tripartite agreement between Bajaj Foundation, INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) and BMC, all the stakeholders have to agree to the new conditions within the next six months. The resolution was signed in 2003. For the last 12 years, nobody has even bothered to visit the museum. I have strived to bring it to international standards and have restored more than 5,000 objects in this museum.
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The corporators have alleged increased interference by you. They also say that the events held in the museum are against Marathi culture.
For the last 12 years, I have been pleading with the corporators to come and visit the museum before criticising us. Asking for more say does not mean that the corporators can give permissions for exhibitions to be held by their relatives. Their involvement in the programming has to be much more than this. Till date, whenever corporators have asked me to increase ticket prices for the museum, I have always opposed it. I love this city and I want every Mumbaikar to benefit from the museum. We hold shows in English, Hindi and Marathi for the citizens of the city. We just held a Kahaani festival in Hindi inviting more than 1000 children. I have an expertise in this subject and I am on the National Museum’s Advisory Board (New Delhi). What do these people think?
Do you think increased involvement by the BMC will hamper the creative process?
I would be delighted for an increased involvement. I have been pleading with them for the same. But the involvement has to be with finances also. Giving Rs 2 crore to the museum only meets our administrative costs. We get more funds from Bajaj and INTACH to keep the show running. So if the corporators want to get involved more, let them pledge more funds for the museum too.
What next? Will the new project of adding an extension to the building still continue?
Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte has assured me that the project will continue as it is. As far as the next move is concerned, we have to consider all the legal options. I love this city and I want to do something to uplift its social and cultural status. I do not have any political agenda and neither am I interested in any kind of fame. I belong to a famous family and with the kind of qualifications I have, I can do much more. It is just that I want to do more for this museum and the people of this city.