By T S Sudhir
His son wanted to introduce me to M F Husain. I found myself feeling awkwardly diffident. Here was the legend himself, standing a couple of steps away from me and I was getting a chance to shake hands with the most world famous Indian painter of our times. Perhaps my shy reluctance stemmed from knowing that art and drawing have never really been my strong points. For that matter, I can’t even draw a line straight, and what was I going to say to this acclaimed and acknowledged genius.
But then Husain didn’t draw a straight line either. Neither in life nor in his works.
That day Husain Saab bowled me over with his warmth and graciousness. He held my hand and showed me around Cinema Ghar, his art gallery in Hyderabad. I distinctly remember the bicycle stand that had been recreated on the ground floor. A work of art that only MF could have done. As he explained when, where and how he drew the various works that hung on the walls, I thought Hyderabadi tehzeeb’s other name could well have been Maqbool Fida Husain.
The occasion was Husain announcing a film `The Making of a Painter’, on his life, to be directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, with actor Sreyas Talpade playing a young Husain. It didn’t quite matter to Husain saab that his films like `Gajagamini’ had bit the dust or that people sniggered about his obsession for finding a muse in actresses like Madhuri Dixit, Tabu, Amrita Rao and Vidya Balan.
During the meeting, Husain regaled everyone with delicious tales of his childhood. His painting brush, his trademark signature, never left his hand. Just like his feet that never wore slippers. Both traits were a photographer’s delight. `The Making of a Painter’ never got made but that afternoon in Hyderabad, I thought Husain had the entire film in his head. And if 70mm was a painting, he would have painted the film then and there. I left that day feeling distinctly that the person had proved even bigger than the artist I had felt daunted by, in heart and in mind.
For some reason, when people say M F Husain, I think also of Dev Anand. And vice versa. Flamboyant, evergreen, debonair. I always thought the calender doesn’t move for either of these two senior citizens.
Today, after he passed away in distant London, his own land and its people are articulating in a million voices how much they missed him. But we haven’t missed him only after he left this world but even before that. Because a small segment of fundamentalists decided that he had insulted Hindu Gods and Goddesses and therefore he had to be driven away.
Is it enough if we just simply dismiss those rabid elements as ignorant fools who did not understand his masterstrokes? Don’t we owe him a public apology for not really standing up to him and reassuring him that he is safe and welcome in his own home? That it is a shame that the greatest Indian name in the canvas of world art had to choose to live in exile and finally embrace the citizenship of another nation? Husain Saab, you will be missed.