For the two years that artist MF Husain spent at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) at Colaba, he found great pride in sharing lunch with the scientists in the institute’s canteen.
“At the institute, I got a room of my own with my name etched on the door. There were scientists from all over the world and they had their names on the door too. I couldn’t be happier,” Husain had told Ananya Dasgupta, an art archivist at TIFR.
Dasgupta shared with the Hindustan Times the transcript of the telephonic interview conducted last year for a book on the institute’s founding director Homi Bhabha.
In 1962, Bhabha, had commissioned 10 “emerging” artists including, Husain, KK Hebbar, KH Ara, VS Gaitonde and Jamini Roy, to design a mural for the institute. “I thought I would never get a chance. It was only on my friend’s persuasion, I sat down with my crayons and made a painting, halfheartedly,” Husain had told Dasgupta.
For more than two months after submitting his entry, Husain got no feedback from the committee. “I visited Phiroza Wadia (Bhabha’s close friend), who was surprised that I hadn’t heard anything. She phoned Dr Bhabha and then said, ‘You got the mural’,” Husain had said.
Husain, then 48, lived at TIFR for two years to complete the 45-ft mural, which adorns an entire wall on the mezzanine floor in the institute’s reception area.
“I could have finished the mural in two months…. [But] I spent more than two years because I wanted to spend more time at TIFR and get to hear Bhabha praise me every week, when he came to visit me,” Husain had told Dasgupta.
Husain was paid Rs15,000 for the mural.