The three large halls on the ground floor of Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, were packed with art lovers, celebrities and connoisseurs on Wednesday, as the city paid tribute to Maqbool Fida Husain, arguably India’s most popular artist, a month after his death in London.
Husain’s five children — Raeesa, Ovais, Aqila, Samsad and Shafat — attended the condolence meet organised by the gallery, as did Mumbai’s glitterati, including actress Madhuri Dixit, a former muse of the artist.
Many shared fond memories of the man forced into exile by right-wing protests against some of his works.
“When my first child was born in 2003, Husainsaab told me that he wanted to see me in my new avatar of a mother,” said Dixit.
“He said he still missed his own mother. He was always very childlike, always bustling with new ideas and energy.”
Veteran theatre producer Nadira Babbar remembered the time Husian visited her house when she was out. “When we returned, we saw that he had painted on our door,” said Babbar. “When we moved house, we had to convince our landlord to let us take the door with us.”
A number of the attendees spoke with regret of Husain’s forced exile, and the fact that he was never able to return to his beloved motherland.
“Husain was just a convenient target,” said photographer Ram Rahman, a family friend who shot the artist extensively. “Politicians who celebrated him once abandoned him later as they did not have the courage to stand up for what was right.”
Socialite and writer Shobhaa De, who visited Husain in hospital days before his death, said he spoke even then of wishing to have a falooda in Mumbai.
“He missed this city,” she said. “Every bit of him longed to come back. Hindustan was his mehbooba (beloved).”