That morning at 8 in the morning in London it was not just one Maqbool Fida Husain who died because Husain was not just one man. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of this century – Ali Peter John
He was a man who was humane. He was a man who used his art to serve society. He was a philanthropist who helped all kinds of causes and was of great help to the poor and the downtrodden. He was an artist who created worlds and people inspired by his own imagination, but he was also acutely aware of the ways in which the world around him was going berserk.
He was a man who had his roots firmly fixed in mother earth (the reason why he always walked bare feet). He was a lover of the good things of life, especially food. He was a connoisseur of all other forms of art. He was a writer and a poet. And above all he was a great lover of Hindi films and film music…
Husain was born in the holy city of Pandharpur in Maharashtra and later came down to Bombay to make a living. He is said to have first worked as an apprentice in the studio of the great painter, Raja Ravi Varma. He then took to painting posters of Hindi films. He always remembered the time when he painted posters under the Mahalaxmi Bridge and how he was paid a few rupees for painting each poster. He gradually took to painting and within no time he was one of the most popular, successful, awarded and rich painters of the world. But he never gave up his love for Hindi films and Hindi film music. He made friends with some of the artists and filmmakers of the time to know how films were made. Even though he was very busy as a painter, he found time to experiment with films and made his first film, “Through The Eyes Of A Painter” which won him the Golden Bear Award at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. It was an award which inspired him to keep his passion for films alive. He next showed his love for films when he painted a series of his interpretations of some of the most important films of Satyajit Ray. He then got busy with his work as an artist. But when he came back to the world of Hindi films, it was like a young man who had just started his career as a filmmaker. Raj Kapoor was making a film called “Henna” and Husain was interested in being associated with the showman for whom he had respect as a film maker. He sought his permission to paint the backdrop for the titles of the film. The Showman gladly gave him the permission, but he died before he could complete the film. His son, Randhir Kapoor who completed the film remembered the promise his father had made to Husain and had the backdrop of the title painted by Husain.
Then came the biggest obsession in the life of Husain as a lover of Hindi films. He who saw every film whatever the genre happened to see a film called “Hum Aapke Hain Koun” and he was amazed, so carried away by the heroine of the film, Madhuri Dixit in whom he saw the symbol of the ‘complete woman’. He saw the film at the Liberty Cinema in Bombay siiting in the same seat over a 100 times. It is like a believe it or not story, but is a fact. He met Madhuri and their meeting led to an association of a life time. He painted Madhuri in different forms. He became a part of the Dixit family and even cooked ‘Biryani’ which he realised was Madhuri’s favourite and carried it all the way from his house in Colaba to her house in Juhu in his Mercedes. He held several solo exhibitions with Madhuri as the only subject. He also played a role in a film called “Mohabbat” in which she was the heroine, a film which was produced by her manager, Rakesh Nath (better known as Rikku). He continued to be a fan of Madhuri till the very end and even found time to visit her in Denver in America where she had settled down after she got married to Dr.Shriram Nene.
His fascination for Madhuri made him take one big step when he decided to make a feature film called “Gaj Gamini” with Madhuri in the title role. He had Santosh Sivan as his cinematographer and A.R.Rahman as his music director in the film. The film was his own way of making a film and he didn’t bother about the crores he spent in the making of the film or the way the film was released and whether the film did good business or not. He knew nothing about the business or the marketing of a film. All he knew was that he wanted to make films the way he wanted to.
He made his second film, “Meenaxi- A tale of three cities” with Tabu and Kunal Kapoor. He had the same team of Santosh and Rahman to work with him and he also turned a lyricist with the film. He had planned to make a comedy about three sisters and had talked to actresses like Urmila Matondkar, Sonali Kulkarni and Amrita Rao, but he could not proceed with the making of the film because of all the problems that came his way and he had to leave the country and live in exile and finally seek citizenship of Qatar – and never came back to India again.
He had this very strange knack of carrying his brushes and paints and painted the walls of stars like Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Javed and Shabana and Raj Babbar among others.
His passion for Hindi cinema saw another dimension when he heard about Yash Chopra who had built his own massive state of the art studio. This writer had the privilege of the great artist asking me to ask the great romantic filmmaker if he could paint one of the walls of the studio with his version of the history of Hindi cinema. The filmmaker was overwhelmed with the offer of the great artist and not only gave him permission, but all the facilities to go ahead and paint a sixty feet high wall. It was an amazing, miraculous and even scary scene to see the ninety year old Husain climb up wooden stairs without any support and reach all the corners of the huge wall to paint every corner with his magic touch. At one stage Yash Chopra was literally scared to see what Husain was doing at his age, but he could do nothing to stop him from completing the work he had taken on as a challenge. The work of the artist in Husain will now be a witness to the passion of the artist in Husain who was so madly in love with cinema that he could even risk his life for it.
Husain kept in touch with friends from the film industry even while he was in exile. He made it a point to see every film he could and meet every artist who visited Dubai. The last film he saw was “Dabangg” which he saw with his family and some friends in Doha. He said Salman Khan reminded him of a “Pahelwan actor” of his early days called Master Vitthal. And Husain being the Husain he was carried away by the beauty of Sonakshi Sinha and was planning to work out something with her, but, alas ! Time had other plans for him and death, the coward, as usual could not even spare a great man like him. Husain once said that he would come back to India one day if for nothing then at least to make one last film.
And one wonders what is happening to the film his youngest son, Owais Husain was making, “The Making Of An Artist” with Shreyas Talpade playing the role of Husain…
I don’t believe in reincarnation but if there something like that I would like to believe in it because I am sure Husain Sahab will be one of the leading filmmakers of the world in that life…
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