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The man who knew MF Husain

art-and-culture Updated: Dec 09, 2011 01:30 IST
Damini Purkayastha
Damini Purkayastha
Hindustan Times
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MF Husain was a man who loved people, he could do anything for those who mattered to him Pradeep Chandra, author.

We cherish the past, everything gone by. Eventually, we start collecting their mementoes, gaze upon them, completely baffled, and bow down to them in utter reverence. This is what will transpire with Husain also. See for yourself,”

Lyricist-poet Gulzar, in the final note of the coffee table book - MF Husain, A Pictorial Tribute.

The book is a treasure trove of photographs, mostly taken by its author Pradeep Chandra, that capture some personal moments in the life of one of India’s most publicly recognised artists.

HusainA photojournalist for over four decades, Chandra met Husain on the job, and through the years, a friendship was formed.

“As a photojournalist in the 1980s, I was often assigned events that were attended by Husain. Gradually, we got to know each other and he started calling me when he had ideas for some shoots,” he says.

By the time Husain left India, Chandra had come to be known as somewhat of an expert on the artist, and was often approached for candid photographs or interviews about him.

It is this familiarity, with the man and his moods that Chandra brings to the book, besides a large collection of photographs clicked by him (and some acquired from friends and family).

Divided into seven sections, the book takes a look at Husain’s journey from Pandharpur as an artist, the evolution of his style and a look at the controversial exhibition Svetambri and his love for food. We learn about Husain as a restless soul, who went around with air tickets in his pockets, so that one never knew where he’d head to next.

The section most readers will instantly flip to is the one on the women in his life. But it’s not just about his Bollywood muses.

Instead, Chandra tells us about Mehbooba Bibi, a widow in the neighbourhood who often fed him, and Marie Jaroslav Zurkova, an interpreter he met in Prague in 1956 and wanted to marry.

Also, there are unseen photos of Husain and actors Madhuri Dixit, Urmila Matondkar, pics of him at high-glam birthday parties and Eid celebrations, and family photos.

Chandra’s research has taken him from Husain’s friends and family to archived articles and art critics. Interestingly, the book talks about the artist as though he is still alive.

“A manuscript was ready and sent to him for approval just before he passed away. We considered changing the text after his death, but his legacy is so great that we decided to leave it the way it is,” says Chandra.