For M.F. Husain, coming back is fraught with risk: Son

December 24th, 2008 - 10:13 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 24 (IANS) He does not want his illustrious father, M.F. Husain, to come back from Dubai. But that has not stopped Shamshad Husain from fondly painting the master artist’s formative and defining years in India, replete with family memories.In fact, family seems to be the theme for artist M.F. Husain and his brood this yearend.

“It (coming back) is fraught with risk. He is happy there. So we keep visiting him every three months or so,” Shamshad, the eldest son who is based in Delhi, told IANS in an informal chat at his residence in the capital before leaving for Dubai to meet his father.

M.F. Husain had left India in February 2006 following threats to his life from Hindu fanatics over his “Bharat Mata” paintings.

Shamshad Husain’s biographical tribute traces M.F. Husain’s journey as a child from Pandharpur to Indore and subsequently to Mumbai, where he spent his early years and made it to the world stage.

The paintings will be housed in a family art archive in Dubai.

“My mother and father are central to my themes. When my father turned 75, I painted his train journey from Pandharpur to Indore in lines and oil colours. That was how the idea of the series was sown,” Shamshad said.

The Husain family celebrates a reunion in Dubai Thursday on the occasion of his eldest granddaughter’s birthday. Shamshad too is there.

The cache of Shamshad’s work spans the life of M.F. Husain from 1950 to 2008 - documenting the family struggle during the artist’s early days to his coming of age on the national art scene.

The works, however, steer clear of the political controversies surrounding the artist.

“The series comprises 15 paintings. I wanted to capture the family. I have heard so much about my grandparents and how they relocated from Pandharpur to Indore. My mother’s mother was born in Hyderabad and my father’s mother was from Pandharpur,” Shamshad told IANS.

“I began my series when my father was born in 1915. He was a year and a half when my grandmother shifted to Indore with my grandfather. My father’s grandfather (my great-grandfather) was alive then. My grandfather was an accountant in the mill - but as he was a Muslim, he was kicked out,” he said.

M.F. Husain earned his father’s displeasure because he was not interested in studies in school and just wanted to paint. “But my great-grandfather supported my father.”

Around 1935, the family shifted to Mumbai. “My father did not finish school and took to painting cinema hoardings to support the family of six children,” Shamshad said. According to Husain junior, his father proved to be a pillar of strength.

“I remember sitting next to him, watching him paint cinema hoardings in the 50s. Life was very tough and he made only six to eight annas (half a rupee) a day in the beginning. After the day’s work, he used to paint by the lamp post,” Shamshad said.

The family lived in a single room on Grant Road for which “M.F. Husain had to pay a rent of Rs.16″. The children slept outside.

Two canvases in the series - on which Shamshad is still working - stand out. A vertical portrait in simplistic lines that shows M.F. Husain in his myriad stages of growth - as a toddler, a boy riding his bike, his tryst with the movies and the mature artist of global acclaim in a collage-like composition.

M.F. Husain’s father and mother appear as cameos in a corner.

The other is a horizontal portrait of the Pandharpur Express chugging to Indore - in simple childlike strokes - that shows young Maqbool sitting by the window with his grandfather.

Other canvases showing M.F. Husain with his children are in various stages of progress. “I take time to complete one canvas - but this series will be ready by March next year.”

2009 will be a year of museums for M.F. Husain. “Business baron Laxmi Mittal, his brother and two of their associates are building a Husain museum, along with one by the Sheikh’s wife in Doha,” Shamshad Husain said.

M.F. Husain is on a roll. The maverick artist has just ordered the 13th car of his exotic fleet of vehicles - a Bugatti sports car in black and white.

And he is making sure the family is not left out.

Said Shamshad: “My father has bought a place for me and for all my five siblings; and he is going to build a family archive where this autobiographical collection will be on permanent display.”

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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