Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why M.F.Husain must come home....

M.F. Husain – Marathi Manoos

Mumbai is the only city in the world M.F.Husain calls ‘home’. Husainsaab is as Maharashtrian as ‘jhunka-bhakri or vada- pav. Mumbai has been the painter’s home for close to eight decades. It is the one destination he celebrated as a very young, very broke aspiring artist when he got here from his birthplace, the holy city of Pandharpur in Maharashtra. He embraced Mumbai and Mumbai embraced him. This passionate love affair continued over the years, with the prolific artist graduating from painting film hoardings to putting India on the international map as its foremost contemporary artist. His horses galloped across the world, breaking records and he himself became the desi art world’s most powerful brand. But through it all, he remained the quintessential Mumbaikar at heart, prowling the city’s gullies ( barefoot, of course), stopping for a quick ‘cutting chai’ at the nearest Irani café, and chronicling every aspect of our drab lives in bold, brilliant strokes that startled viewers with their virility and assurance.
Today, the 94-year-old Mumbaikar wants to come home. The same home he was forced to flee four years ago. He has been living in exile, tormented by the thought he may never set foot in the land of his birth again. Isn’t it time we showed enough grace, courage, courtesy…just plain and simple ‘tameez’… by welcoming him back to his motherland? Yes, the very same ‘Bharatmata’ he stands accused of having desecrated? Without going into the politics of that complex issue, let it be said that those who are vociferously opposing his return and threatening a frail, old man with violence, are the ones who have appropriated the role of the nation’s moral keepers. Isn’t it high time we grew up and took a more enlightened view of the situation…. regardless? One can debate the merits of the numerous cases against the artist till the cows come home. This is not about legality, but human decency. Can we not find it within ourselves to close that ugly chapter and give Husainsaab the benefit of the doubt? Why do his critics assume he had wicked intentions when he chose to paint the subjects he did?What did he have to gain by inviting trouble – big trouble? He has been hugely successful for decades, he doesn’t need publicity stunts to sell his works. Nor is he dumb enough to offend people deliberately and not be aware of the consequences.
Perhaps what Husainsaab had failed to factor in was the growing intolerance in our society – the same society that once prided itself on its acceptance of plurality and diverging views. The same society that still calls itself a democracy but comes down cruelly on anyone who doesn’t toe the line. The tragedy in Husain’s case is that his shrillest and most virulent critics are those who have never seen his work! These are the hired hands of political parties out to create mischief and propagate nasty, narrow- minded theories designed to spread hate, misinformation… and more. It is they who are far more dangerous to our society than any artist. These are the same people who encourage a non-entity with zero artistic merit to ‘fix’ the nonegarian genius by painting Husain himself in the nude! What pathetic levels we have descended to, if we genuinely believe we are punishing one of our greatest living legends by stripping him off his clothes on a canvas.
Husainsaab’s anguished ‘crie de coeur’ has obviously not reached the right ears so far. Political heavyweights in Delhi are said to be sympathetic, but cautious.With the Congress in power at the centre and state, the climate is slightly more relaxed, less paranoid … but as Husainsaab has pointed out, who can protect him if even his art can’t be protected?Who has the guts to stand up for him ( and others in similar situations)? Most intellectuals have lost their voices, his own contemporaries are ‘scared’ of retribution, galleries refuse to show his work since they find it too ‘risky’. That leaves the ‘aam aadmi’ – the most sensible, fair and aware individual in the country. Why not ask him? How about a national debate – should M.F. Husain come home before it is too late? Let the public see his work in its totality – unedited and unprejudiced - and let the people of India take that call unitedly.
Husain is a proud Indian and Mumbaikar. Our city has seen enough violence and venom. As the macabre 26\11 anniversary rolls up, it is time to ask ourselves whether we wish to perpetuate the politics of hate….and at what cost? Why not choose this significant date to get Husain back, and mark his return with open arms… and more importantly, an open mind?Why not demonstrate to those who are determined to persecute him that we are prepared to stand up for a man whose art transcends the narrow confines of religious jingoism and twisted interpretations that serve petty political interests?
If that happens, I’ll be there at the airport to welcome him home.
How many of you are willing to join me??


It is always such a pleasure to be in Pune, especially when the weather is this crisp and delicious. What that means is simple - I over ate - starting with a luscious duck ( from Bangalore), and a rainbow trout ( from the Himalayas ). I was there to inaugurate an art show featuring emerging talent from Pune. It's an annual event called SHLOK, which is put together by young Sheetal Darda. She plans to take it to Dubai and London next.

I met up with family as well - my husband's sister Ratna lives in Pune, and I was delighted to meet her grandson Drik, who is fluent in Marathi at age 7. Raj T. would approve! Ratna and her daughter Rina , produced a Bong banquet, which starred the famous Rui Maach, besides kosha maangsho ( outstanding - must get the recipe), dahi chicken, begun bhaaja and what is popularly known as 'plastic chaatney' (raw papaya in a fragrant, sugar syrup). What a brilliant meal - and let me not forget the roshogullas. No wonder my masseuse told me later I'd put on weight ( instantly???). I totally ignored her unnecessary comment.... and ate some more .

Oh.... in case you notice the weight gain in the Kingfisher Calendar Hunt show on ndtv Good Times ( the repeat is on monday 12 noon and tuesday at 10pm ), please don't tell me about it! I have received great reactions - so allow me to glow!!


ves21 said...

I totally agree. You can find some details about my view here (Hussein included):

The unsure ascetic said...

forget the girls in the show mam, they all appear below par when you are sharing screen space with them. injustice in broad daylight
!!Is the Models Union(if one exists!) listening?

Theyoginme said...

glad to hear you were in my home away from home..Pune.. I had no idea Mr. Hussain is in exile.

Theyoginme said...

Ok I googled it. What rubbish! I can't believe he was charged for painting nude paintings of hindu goddesses.. its these contradictions in India that are irksome. Have those who charged him forgotten about Khujaraho and Konark temple... I would join you at the airport...I will coincide it with one of my trips back :)

The Panorama said...

Great write up, ms De! I agree with what you write. Let us not behave like the Taliban when it comes to art and religion. I hope M F Husain returns to Mumbai.

Alex Engwete said...

This is a real shame. Well, I'd advise this Indian Picasso to stay in London. He'd definitely be in mortal danger in his homeland. Some scatterbrain might martyr him! And, sorry for this being a loss for India... Btw, talking of Picasso, didn't he paint Guernica in Paris and not in his homeland of Spain?

introspection said...

Had no idea MFH was in exile! But wait, are'nt all these hate campaigns not deliberately installed by politicians in the minds of 'aam aadmi' as insects 'keedaas' that just live there for no reason or rhyme. aam aadmi thinks he has a food for thought, (thinks he is intelligent too),and reactviolently; whereas actually the politicians have the last laugh after fooling the 'aam aadmi'. aam aadmi is a gullible fool.
We have a long history of gullibility, and just bcoz Gandhiji won freedom for us, it does'nt mean we have become a model democracy. In fact democracy has been thrust on us, and we just don't know how to handle it! MFH's issue is a stark example of our undemocratic behaviour. Hussain is not what we deserve.
Let the poor guy live in peace wherever he is! India is of course his home and it is lost to him, but his exile is a far bigger loss to India who prides itself on its culture & heritage.

Sameer said...

Did not know about M.F.Husaiin's is such a shame these things happen in India and we call it a democratic country. So called moral keepers are ruling the country, what else/

"Marathi Moolagi" is in Pune and did not have the traditional marathi food...kaay ga, kaay zhale? anyway, glad you had fun. :)

By the way your write ups and your public image seems so young that I can't say "aho" to you. So took liberty of saying "aga" :) Hope you won't mind. Have fun, keep writing (isn't that a funny sattement. You will write till the last breathe). You inspire people to take a stand and think. We need that :)

Gajendra said...

well...I disagree with you shobhaa....

I don't know whether he deserves it for what he has done (the paintings), he deserves it for keeping our 'teeth' intact, we have been too liberal, a pinch of authoritarianism is required at this point of time.

cmpershad said...

I have seen the great artist walking barefoot on Bombay [then it was called so!] and people touching his feet in reverence. If he is GHAR KAA BHOOLA he must be welcomed:)

Nandinikakoti said...

Dear Shobha

Those that are opposing his come back today will be the ones to garland this gentle artist who has painted India bright on the world map... wot else can one do to keep themselves highlighted through the days news... Let Hussain Saab step our land and see how they follow the forgive n forget rule... These crowd has no brains.. they don't have a heart also of their own.. they ain't influenced either BUT JUST PAID...
We want MF in our land.. he belongs to India and if or not he has wrongly painted himself ... enuf is enuf....This section of India needs to broaden up, grow to humanism

Nandini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nandini said...

Dear Shobhaa De...

well,.. I've seen those paintings and they certainly invite a great deal of outrage especially because we are talking about Indian Goddesses being portrayed in a way that is derogatory.

It's convenient, isn't it,.. to compare every controversial depiction of art to Khajuraho & Ajanta & Ellora paintings so as to prove our point!

Let's just assume we are in an age where never was there a painting of the Almighty. So, we need not compare what we see. Should we still consider it as an elegant & respectful way of depicting God?

It's appalling that a cause taken up to uphold the values embedded in religious depictions of Gods & Goddesses should infact, be always linked & summed up as a political vendetta against the 'free minded'!

There is an element of caution, an element of self judgement, that we need to imbibe when forcing ourselves to be free spirited even in a democracy, because the fact of the matter is we are living in a society.

They say they've never realized MF Hussain was in exile. It's amazing how people would love to push the boundaries even with the kind of ignorance they exhibit!

Free spirited...,freedom of expression..modernity...decency( that word was mentioned quite a number of times)..all that's fine....
where does ethics fit into all of this?

Would you care to define your version of an ethical conduct?

Mukesh Bhatia said...

Hey maam!!

Welcoming home Hussainsaab is alright. We aint Taliban but by what means do u think that painting nude of hindu goddesses is any form of art. It is sadism that is being portrayed by an artist of this stature. Who on earth other than a sadist can paint his own mother, nude? Vandalism, Talibanism is not for us. He can always stay in his homeland.

Pinku said...

Will be there right beside you if they ever allow MF home.

as for the bangla delights in Pune, all I can say is lucky you!!!

uthamanarayanan said...

I think Nandini made the point as a comment to your Blog;how sane or insane is an artist , if debated or diagnosed shall sometimes solve the problems.Some use eccentric, the word,but where eccentricity begins and where sanity ends is debatable depending on the publicity one gets in a society.If the person concerned is a note worthy and useful to society in anyway we are silent on his or her eccentricity.If either our father or grandpa becomes either eccentric or insane, we live with him owing to his age; atleast on this benign consideration we can leave a man to live in his native land at the fag end of his life.

Ravi Patel said...

Never! This man should never be allowed back into India.Make him an example. To paint Hindu Goddesses in nude and then brush them all in black as Mr Hussein did is an intended insult too far. people like Shobha De and her prideless and parasitical upper class society might find such obscenity and vulgarity acceptable but for the vast majority of us Indians such things are simply not acceptable. Perhaps Mr Hussein should try painting female Islamic religious figures in nude and then see what fireworks take place. Ms De, I suggest you advocate such a course to this upper class darling just to test his courage.

Gulshan said...

Hi Shobha,

I envy u wth all the interesting food u enjoy wink wink I have a bit of GUSSA with you .. your columns have become 2 regional for my taste please make them broader …

I am not sure if u r catering to the right audience here and I hope they r not doing selective hearing by only reading ‘marathi manus’ in your recent columns and start thinking that u r a mere marathi mulgi… but anyways one shud try lol

The peope who oppose to husain’s paintings n stuff shud first close all the temples as I hope they do know wat SHIVLING is ??? have they seen Kali’s pictures?? Also they must visit khajurao, and more temples where our God’s r portrayed nude and in sexual acts…

This is what prolonged colonial rule does to individuals.. nudist n naturist is normal especially with the weather in our country… one shud b proud of one’s body and it si beautiful…

People become THEKEDAR of art without any knowledge… I worry for Husain and don’t think he wl be ALLOWED back…

Aam admi has no value and to top it media wl not let him come back.. media is full of hypocrites who have same views as lot of people here….

Love Gulshan

Bertie said...

And I come back again to your blog whenever I need a good laugh.

Half of the bimbos that reply to your posts do so simply to have their URL on your page. Plain bimboistic comments without any purpose. I doubt how many of them even know what an objective analysis is.

Now coming to the point.

I dare you miss De to say a word in favour of Taslima Nasreen or 'The Danish Artist' or 'Salman Rushdie'. Got the balls, honey??

You are, and will be, a high society coward(not to forget a beef-eating pork-hating muslim sympathizer. )

meetu said...

It seems like A hot trend to make martyrs out of people who use and abuse us....a sign of high class maybe.....but sadly its pathetic attempt at being me toos. In present permissive western culture it may have become cool to call your parents by their names....maybe even encouraged by them....but nevertheless some respect ...distance ...decorum has to be maintaned in all relationships however close they maybe......regardless of the social & financial positions of the people involved. Actually people in such position owe greater sense of responsibility....afterall they are the so called Icons. Just because they are highly acclaimed should they be allowed to insult anyone without any repurcussions. Will Ms De allow Mr Hussein in his house if God forbid he insults her near & dear ones. And is painting nude the image of a mother not an insult.....khajuraho & such are not images of Gods!There is a relevant saying which goes like ....WE ARE ALL FREE as long as your freedom ends where mine begins.

Pratap said...

Shobha - This is one time I have to disagree with you.
Upfront let me state I am an admirer of M F Hussain's style and if I could afford it, one of his legendary horses would be hanging in my living room.

Having said that, do see the juxtaposition of his paintings in this link:

Please note that I am NOT a fan of this site or am not pushing it. I just found it on the web.

I agree that the paintings may have been done in different periods - line drawings of the Indian goddesses v/s the other fully clad paintings.

Unlike the First Amendment to the US Constitution, the freedom of expression in the Indian Constitution IS constrained with a clause. This clause does not allow your expression to offend me on grounds of religion, language, region, gender, etc.

Hence, if his paintings have offended the religious sensibilities of some/many the lawsuits are very much valid.

As far as freedom of expression - why wasn't that invoked in the Taslima Nasreen, Da Vinci Code, the Danish cartoons (wrt protests in India), etc? As vociferously as it is invoked when the majority community gets offended?

Why doesn't Mr. Hussain just issue an apology and come back?

Prats said...

For One, Glad to know that you appreciate your grandson with a pinch of Raj T's approval. Funny we talk of the tolerant society.

Funny that here in the same blog you wrote about how the violence was done and had achieved the aim and now he should move forward.

Quid Pro Quo, why not a Hindu Radical gain mileage for his political career by being against MF Hussain and his setting foots in India.

We are a hypocrites ain't we?

mahatru said...

Hey Pratap

Thanks for sharing this link :)
Seeing the paintings i feel Hussain should never return

movies in Chandigarh
movies in Goa

rajat said...

I don't think I will join you at the airport to bring him to Mumbai. But I won't create obstacles for him if he is coming back.

The fact of the matter is that Muslims and Bollywood get away with almost everything when making fun of Hindu gods, religious songs and other things. But the moment you step on the tail of Muslim religion there would be widespread violence.

At that time people like Shobha De or Barkha Dutt who want to become great ambassador of humanity become invisible and don't have the courage to spit on the face of these muslims.

Will you reply???

Anil Kumar said...

I will allow him to stay in his home but would like to kick his FRAGILE ASS just once to beat the shit out of him and warn him not to play with people's religous feelings.

Barkha Dutt's butt and Indian Democracy are way too out of shape. I hope both of them get fit soon before they demise.

Latha said...

“A painter at 90 deserves to be at his home — painting on his canvas". Agreed, but since departing from India's shores has Husain ever pined for the country of his origin? Has he expressed an ardent desire to be back amid his own people? In fact, he appears quite content hawking his paintings at astronomical prices in Western markets. Of late he has made glitzy Dubai his home where, among other things, he rented a state-of-the-art auditorium at a phenomenal rate to organise a private screening (for his late life obsession, Madhuri Dixit) of yet another self-indulgent film produced by him. I have, therefore, never understood the persistent demand from a section of the media that the Government of India bring him back instantly. How can the Government drag a reluctant nonagerian back home when he has demonstrated no intention to return?
Chandan Mitra

Sugee said...

Defend his freedom of expression, his right to provoke, outrage, insult and humiliate, I am all with you, but please dont get into the mischeif of 'proving' that there is no insult or humilation in Husain's art on the premise that "such art has always been part of hindu tradition". Such justification is exactly what some 'progressive, liberal, intellectuals' have used to say why the Hindus hurt with Husain is unjustified while muslim hurt with danish cartoons or the christian hurt with dan vinci is justified. "Islam and Christianity have not been permissive like Hinduism, so while it is alright to do whatever with hinduism we have to be respectful of christianity since they have traditionally demanded such respect unlike hinduism.".


1. To my knowlwdge, other than Kali-mata there is no tradition of depicting any goddess in nude in our tradition. In Khajuraho and Konarak, all those nude carvings and statues are of devas and apsaras, not gods and goddesses.

2. What is the basis for a nude sita hanging off a nude hunuman, for there is no situation in Ramayana where even a fully clothed sita is hanging off the tail of a fully clothed hanuman.

3. Poor, old frail man indeed. I am sure De made his day by giving him a hearty laugh. For he knows what exactly he is - an old h..y b..d !

Eidothia said...

Strange how touchy people are and what a hate campaign is going on here!
The paintings in question were done in 1970 and were not even on public display until a foolish lowly newpaper for publicity's sake put it up and colored it red in print! Also the man who has a glorious 8 decades of painting career behind him, humbled infront of the 'dangerously advocated mob culture' and apologised. Despite this, a prosecution is initiated and law suits are filed.
A link is posted here with a sectorial view of his paintings. Please can you take a look at all of his paintings?
He has expressed ample times to return home, but the custodians of society wouldnt let him alone. What a shame!
And about all the drum roll on preservation of ethics going on here, all I have to say is 'Charity begins at home'

Sugee said...

Oh yes, Husain can speak or paint whatever crap he wants, I will defend his right to death, but lets leave it at that - his right to expression - rather then trying to justify what he has expressed.

But our intellectuals dont want to debate this on the focal point of fundemental right for then they also have to defend the danish cartoons and the da vinci code, which issues they are absolute chicken to take on.

My contempt and disgust is more for our so called liberal, progressive, intellectuals than the Husains, for, in their bid to feel free to choose their battles they try to change the very basics of the issue. They have turned the debate towards 'did Hausain really do wrong' rather tha stick with 'Husain has a fundemental right', so that no one can question them why they did not squeak in defence of the danish cartoon or the da vinci code.

maha said...

ya... nice facts...

Work from home India

Neelam said...

Even if I want to be fair to MFH, is it mere coincidence that he has only painted Hindu gods in the most obnoxious poses. He hasn't drawn gods from his religion in such a disgusting way. I do not claim to understand modern art, but looking at a picture of an animal in a compromising posture with Durga, Goddess Laxmi sitting naked on Ganesh's head, naked Shiv-Parvati, Seeta naked with Ravan is definitly offending.

ashwin said...

dear ms. de,
if your "grace, courage, courtesy…just plain and simple ‘tameez’" are in unision with your views regardng this scoundrel hussein than be kind enough to demonstrate these by publicly requesting this scum via your blog to:-

execute another 'work of art' depicting your mother in replicatorial fashion as he has done for devi sita,but sparing lord hanuman from his evil intents and replacing him with himself(your idol hussein) so that you can display this great work of art in your home for your acquaintances and visitors to appreciate.

wonder if you will display your "grace, courage, courtesy…just plain and simple ‘tameez’" in public view.

i have with a sense of grief and guilt put your mother in this context because for people like you your own morality is of little value.


Sidhusaaheb said...

I would've joined you, had I been a resident of Mumbai.

BTW, I wonder why those who object to Hussein's paintings do not object to the sculptures at Khajuraho ( ).

ram9 said...

Lets get the issue in perspective. The issue is a) He painted Saraswati and Laxmi godesses nude b) He painted that hanuman was watching sita and ram having sex 3) He painted BhratMata in the nude 4) He included the phrase "Rape of India" in one of his paintings (however well meaning it was).
Well this man in any civil society would be considered a) absolute scoundral b) senile c) one to be locked up for life.
Also note that he is not in some fucking "exile" he is running away from all the legitimately filed cases and there are warrants for his arrest.
So a seasoned and well read journalist like you should not bullshit about indians to have tameez to welcome him back. Yes he should be brought be tried by the due process of law and if found guilty to be jailed as we do it any other criminal in this country.
Sorry about some of the words which came out due to the sheer outrage at your hypocritical writing....ram kerala

ram9 said...

Couple of points 1) about hindi culture being that of khajurao where there are nude depiction in sculptures etc. Fine if that is going to be our standards then we should all be walking around naked since during those times people never wore clothes. 2) If indeed painting nudes is the norm lets just assume it is a given in india to paint nudes, would you or hussain(saab..mygod how much can you fall shoba) enjoy if your mothers or sisters or daughters are wives are painted in the nude and those pictures exhibited and sold...think about the tameez at that time....ram

shaji said...

MF Hussain, Mother India and my narrow mindedness.

Tushar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tushar said...

Utter crap.
A man who consistently and deliberately targets a particular community through his paintings ought to be punished.
We are tolerant despite his misdeeds. What more freedom could he have expected here? - All people did here was file cases in courts against him.
If he paints religious symbols or women in a derogatory manner in some of the Islamic nations, he probably would be decapitated in public.

Vikas said...

Shobha De - Just one question, please show me a "naked" picture of Muhammed painted by MF Hussain. Or pictures of his sister and mother...he has painted them but they are clothed as well. So how is that painting our gods naked is an honour ?? I prefer he giving that honor to his own family/gods first before trying us.

Its funny how a few Dannish "CARTOONS" create ruckus all over the world...but people want to get away with such blasphemy on other religion by calling it art.

I challenge Hussain to paint such art on Muhammed and then live to see another day...I doubt it !!!

dshah said...

i really wish i could still wish for the same..

Jayakeerthi S said...

I am confused, what is it in MFH's paintings that are so spectacular?

I only see a lot of hype, and nothing truly creative or beautiful. Offcourse, my anger shoots up when I hear that his paintings depicts the godly forms of our creators (Father, Mother and Teacher) as per Hindu beliefs.

That aside, do you all think that there are not atleast 10000 people who can visualize, paint more beautiful art than this overrated old man?

I truly find it difficult to comprehend why people are admiring him.

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