Long association or chance meeting, M.F. Hussain made an impact.
Photos R. Ragu, S. R. Raghunathan and BY Special Arrangement
Tribute to a maverick:(Clockwise from left) Thotta Tharani, his line drawing and painting of M. F. Hussain; a memorable black and white moment with the artist - a young Sivakumar is in the third row (standing extreme right); the actor as he is now and Sudharani Ragupathy.
Eminent people from various walks of life recall their experiences with the late M.F. Hussain:
Thotta Tharani, artist and art director.
Broadminded and selfless, M.F. Hussain gave a lot of opportunities for artists to exhibit their talent.
I saw him the first time when I was barely 18 at Mrs. Sarah Abraham's house. He was painting something when Saramma introduced me to him. He saw my collection when he was in Mumbai. Just before organising an exhibition of my paintings, I requested him to write a small note about me and my work. He came early in the morning and we met at the JJ School of Arts. I took him to the Chemould Framing Shop on Princess Street, where he saw my paintings and felt very happy. We had tea at a roadside hotel and drove back to the JJ School of Arts gate where he sat down and wrote on a piece of paper: “His onslaughts and colours are charged with young and youthful exuberance.”
With his auspicious note, the show was quite successful and I met him several times thereafter. He always advised me to continue painting apart from doing films. I am grateful to Mrs. Sarah Abraham for the Kala Yatra shows conducted by her in India and abroad, where I had several lively interactions with that great artist called M.F. Hussain.
Hussain's humility was noteworthy. I was supposed to work for his film ‘Gajagamini' but somehow missed it, something I have always regretted. I was about to go to Dubai to show him my sculptures but could not make it and thereby missed a golden opportunity to see him especially in his last days. When he visited my house a couple of times he used to always ask my mother to prepare filter coffee which he loved. He was a very good host too.
Hussain visited my show in 1995 at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai. The last time I met him was at the Lakshana art Gallery in Chennai about five years ago. Fortunately, I had taken some photographs of him along with my family. He will remain in our hearts forever. The bold lines that he tried to use with colours will always remain etched in my mind. He had at least twenty of my ink drawings in his collection, a fact I was very proud of.
Dancer Sudharani Raghupathy recalls the extraordinary experience of watching the maestro working through the night. “In February 1983, my husband Raghupathy and myself had been to the Indian Trade Fair Authority held at Caracas, Venezuela, South America. Mohammed Yunus was the chairman of that Trade Fair Authority. I was invited to perform Bharatanatyam while a folk dance troupe had come from Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah was also present there.
Hussain was entrusted with the work of painting the main entrance arch leading to the Trade Fair. We were all staying in the same Hotel. Hussain was working for a full week but was not able to complete it until the day before the inauguration. So he did not stop painting that night and produced stroke after deft stroke as we watched in fascination. Patterns emerged as he dipped his brush – he had several – into an array of colours and applied them. On the whole, it was a colourful night that just flew away. And we were back at the venue the next morning not feeling tired after sitting up the whole night.
Hussain always carried a camera and clicked whenever something inspired him. If he was captivated by a pair of eyes, he would come close, without any inhibition, and take pictures.
Actor-artist Sivakumar recalls his visit to New Delhi as a student of art, way back in 1965 (March 31 to be precise). There he met M.F. Hussain at the Dhoomi Mal's Gallery. Several of Hussain's paintings were on show, sharing space with the work of other artists. Sivakumar remembers the genius agreeing to pose with the group of college students for a photograph. Expert at several styles, Hussain made the cubicle, not mastered by anyone, his speciality, informs Sivakumar.
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