Indian artist M.F. Husain’s undying passion for art was also manifest in a long love affair with cinema. From painting billboards to designing movie invitations to making films, he had a colourful tryst with Bollywood.
Husain, who died in London Thursday, came to Mumbai in 1935 in search of a career in art and ended up painting movie posters to earn livelihood. That was his first brush with cinema and the fascination was to last 75 years.
“He probably made the billboard for K.L. Saigal’s (1935) ‘Devdas’. After that he associated himself with New Talkies and then took off independently,” K. Bikram Singh, who has written a book on the painter titled “Maqbool Fida Husain”, told IANS.
“His experience in billboard-making art reflected in his later paintings. He used broad strokes and strong colours, usually used in hoarding paintings,” he added.
Mumbai-based film historian S.M.M. Ausaja said, “MF designed invites for several movies. He designed it for ‘Heena’ and and his own films ‘Gaja Gamini’ and ‘Meenaxi’ and also the wedding invite of Juhi Babbar (the daughter of actor politician Raj Babbar and actress Nadira).”
After climbing the high ladder of the art world, Husain decided to show his creativity on silver screen and wielded the megaphone for his first film in 1967 for “Through the Eyes of a Painter”.
Known for his cubist and abstract depiction of figures and animals in Indian art, he filmed the 15-minute long movie in Rajasthan which has shots of a goat, a hawk flying into the blue seas and women bathing.
His maiden work, sans dialogues, impressed the international film critics when screened at the Berlin Film Festival, walked away with a Golden Bear.
But it took him 33 years to make his next, a feature film titled “Gaja Gamini” featuring Bollwyood’s dancing diva Madhuri Dixit who inspired him with her performance in the 1994 musical blockbuster “Hum Aapke Hain Koun”.
Just like millions of Indians, Husain fell for her charm, not only watching “Hum Aapke….” 67 times but also making a series of paintings depicting the actress in various moods and roping her in to play the lead role in his film “Gaja Gamini”.
The film projected the aesthetics of feminine beauty in different time periods. From the script, to production, Husain was involved in every aspect of the movie.
Unfortunately Husain, who co-scripted the film with Kamna Chandra, couldn’t turn it into a commercial success.
Another Bollywood actress who caught his attention was Tabu and he made “Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities” with her in 2004.
Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap said: “The kind of work and the kind of films that he has made, only he could make them. He made them all by himself and funded them also, so nobody had the audacity to question his conviction.”
Husain’s fascination for Bollywood divas continued. When the film “Vivah” was released in 2006, he instantly liked lead actress Amrita Rao, portrayed as a demure small time girl, and decided to paint her. It was big moment for Amrita.
Later it was Vidya Balan who struck a chord with her sensuous portrayal of a rural woman in “Ishqiya”. Husain expressed a desire to make film with the talented actress – but this wish will now remain unfulfilled.
He also expressed a desire to bring the vivacity of actress Anushka Sharma on canvas after watching her spirited performance in “Band Baaja Baraat”.
Poster and Bollywood memorabilia collector Siddharth Tagore remembers attending Husain’s exhibition dedicated to Oscar winning filmmaker Satyajit Ray and his movies.
“The exhibition featured Husain’s works inspired by Ray and his movies. It was a
legacy of his movie years in Mumbai – the love for good and meaningful cinema,” Tagore, also the owner of Art Konsult Gallery in the capital, told IANS.
At the time of his death, his autobiography was being made into a movie tentatively titled “The Making of the Painter” starring Shreyas Talpade as the young Husain.
“I am honoured to have known Husain saab since childhood. Very few people know that his father used to sell small earthen lamps in front of the Pandharpur temple in Maharashtra. He would have been a happier person had he been in India during his last days,” said Nadira.
Talking about the Husain painting in her living room, she said: “The painting is a depiction of images of a couple a pigeon and a lion. Looking at the painting now gives mixed feeling.
“A happy feeling of being fortunate of such a great artist putting down his work on our wall and sad because we will no longer be able to interact with him.”