Watching `Gajagamini` was ritual for Husain`s guests`

New Delhi: Maqbool Fida Husain was a gracious host but had a fetish. It was mandatory for every guest to his home to watch `Gajagamini`, the movie the celebrated artist made with his muse Madhuri Dixit, recalls Husain`s friend Venu Rajamony, former consul-general to Dubai.

"It was a mandatory ritual. He would make you sit and watch `Gajagamini`, something not everybody enjoyed. But he was very hospitable and warm," Rajamony told reporters in an informal chat.

His book, `India and UAE In Celebration of a Legendary Friendship`, a limited edition volume chronicling the ties between the two countries, boasts of a special cover painting by Husain.

The book has a chapter devoted to the artist. Published by Indian Expressions in Dubai, the book was introduced in India for the first time at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) conclave.

"The cover of the book is the culmination of a deep friendship with Husain," Rajamony said. Husain wanted to know the nature of the project and painted a symbolic cameo of India-Arab ties, the former envoy said.

After art, movies were another of Husain`s passions, Rajamony said. "When Madhuri Dixit made a comeback in `Aja Nachle`, Husain bought a bunch of tickets and distributed them for free so that his friends could watch the movie," he said.

Reminiscing about his first meeting with Husain, Rajamony said: "the first time I met Husain, it was courtesy journalist and old friend M.J. Akbar."

"I met M.J. (Akbar) for lunch in a hotel in Dubai (in 2007) where we accidentally ran into Husain at the lobby of the hotel. The first thing I noticed were his feet.

"He was wearing some kind of cloth shoes - not `chappals` (sandals) - but slippers. I was struck by his friendliness. He invited me to meet him any time. He struck me as a great conversationalist," Rajamony said.

"I considered him the most eminent Indian during my stay in Dubai and the most lovable," the former envoy said.

Rajamony said the artist was kind enough to invite him and his wife to his home.

"He had three homes in Dubai - one in which he lived, one in which he worked and one house full of paintings. I remember he had pitched a Bedouin tent in his garden where he had kept a large number of paintings. We drank coffee Arabian style on the ground. He was working on a big project - the `History of Arab Civilisation` - and was working between Dubai and Qatar," the envoy said.

Rajamony said: "Husain was part of every India-related event in Dubai - the Republic Day and Independence Day functions".

Husain, who died in London June 9, never hesitated admitting that he missed India, the former diplomat to Dubai said.

"Despite assurances by the Indian government that it would protect the artist if he returned, Husain didn`t trust the system. He often said one obscure judge or policeman somewhere could put him in jail. All he wanted was to spend his life painting."



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