Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Life of Highs and Lows


MF Hussain
1915-2011

Often called the 'Picasso of India,' Maqbool Fida Hussain has been revered as one of the greatest Indian ;painters in history. Unfortunately, he was also labelled as an enemy by India's communal right-wing. Whatever you might say of him, his genius cannot be questioned.

TO the intelligentsia and upper-crust of society, he was seen as one of their own - a man of art, of sophistication. Indeed, he read extensively and had knowledge of Arabian and Indian cultures. His paintings were a representation of this. His talent was acknowledge worldwide and he went on to become the richest painter in India, with a single canvas selling for $2 mn at one point of time - this from a man who started his career selling paintings for Rs. 100 (about $2) apiece!

Yet, as his fame and talent spread, his brush with the religious right-wing proved to be his undoing. He was roundly criticized for his depiction of Hindu goddesses in a sexual light. His painting of Mother India in the nude attracted a blizzard of litigation against him. As if that were not enough, his house was attacked allegedly by members of the Bajrang Dal backed by the Shiv Sena. Not just the Hindu right-wing, even the Muslim right-wing denounced some of his writings as blasphemous.

Eventually, he was cleared of all charges, but he fled the country before that. In 2010, he took Qatari citizenship and, in keeping with Indian Citizenship laws, surrendered his Indian passport. He died on this day in London, still hoping to return to the country that he was born to. We can at least hope that he will be allowed to rest in peace in the same soil from whence be came.

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