His spirit refuses to cave in to age. India’s tallest contemporary artist M.F. Husain turned 95 Friday, still on the job of making high art. The artist is set to make a splash in his adopted homeland Doha with a sound installation of four life-size Murano glass horses and his flashy racing cars.
Husain, keen to return to India which he left in 2006, is hyperactive, creative and sprightly as ever, say friends in the capital, who are constantly in touch with him.
Composer A.R. Rahman is setting the music for the multi-media art work by the maverick artist, who owns at least 12 racers.
Husain is also paying a tribute to the glorious history of Bollywood – the tinsel city that shot him to fame – with a large mural-format series in canvas on the history of Indian cinema – right from the days of Dadasaheb Phalke.
“Husain wants to return home, but the situation is such that it is not possible for him to come back. He did not want to leave, circumstances forced him. It is a terrible thing to have happened to a man as active and spirited as him,” well-known artist, designer and photographer Ram Rahman said.
Rahman said Husain was working round-the-clock.
“He is full of unbelievable energy at 95. He is currently making a sound installation of four life-size Murano glass horses that will be placed along side his fleet of racing cars in a giant solid art composition. He has recorded the engine sounds of the vehicle and asked composer A.R. Rahman to create a soundtrack for the installation from the tape,” Rahman said.
Husain is right now in London, supervising the sculptures of horses in Venice.
Born Sep 17, 1915 in Pandharpur in Madhya Pradesh, Husain moved to Mumbai at the age of 20 to study at the J.J. College of Art. He supported himself and family by painting cinema posters in the 1940s and 1950s.
“We were paid barely four or six annas per square foot. That is – for a 6X10 feet canvas, we earned a few rupees. Apart from the New Theatre, others did not pay us at all,” the artist recalled in his autobiography.
The artist relocated to the United Arab Emirates in 2006 in self-imposed exile after rightwing Hindu groups in the country objected to “offensive portrayal of Hindu deities in his art”.
It led to several legal suits against him.
In March, the artist surrendered his Indian passport and accepted citizenship of Doha that the Sheikh (ruler) and his wife offered to him as a gesture of appreciation of his work. He was commissioned to make several high-value art pieces for the Doha Museum.
While the artist completes one more commissioned work for Doha, the Indian capital was Friday also paying him a colourful tribute.
A series of paintings, “Husain ki kahani-hamari zubaani” (Husain’s life in our words), is giving a new meaning to his life on his birthday.
More than 100 students of the fine arts department of Jamia Millia Islamia Centre for Learning will paint footages of Husain’s life in a series inspired by the artist’s autobiography in Hindi, “Husain ki kahani, Apni Zubaani” at the M.F. Husain Gallery in Jamia Millia Islamia.
The project is a collaboration between SAHMAT and the institute.
A photo-booth with a cutout of Husain, designed like the old studios of the 1970s is providing his fans an opportunity to be photographed with the icon – who has carried Indian contemporary art across the world.
The photographs will be presented to him by Rahman at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha Sep 22.
The outpouring love, praise and admiration for the artist was spontaneous at the gallery.
Old fans miss him in India.
“M.F. Husain is still the greatest Indian artist. At 95, he needs to come home. What has happened to him is a tragedy perpetrated by a miniscule of rabble rousing culturally defunct people, who are known to create such phenomenon. Art is after all art, some one has to buy it,” yesteryear actress and social activist Nafisa Ali said.