End of an Era

Jigna Khajuria

Maqbool Fida Husain, known as India’s Picasso, has left behind an unparalleled legacy of Indian art.

No stranger to controversy, a lot has been said and written about the man who passed away June 9 in a London Hospital.

“Everyone regarded him with respect. But what made him special was that he was open to talk to people. I could talk to him about anything, our relation was very friendly,” says celebrity photojournalist Pradeep Chandra, who’s known Husain for over three decades.

According to Chandra, Husain had been working on a UK museum project called ‘Mohenjo Daro to Manmohan’ based on Indian culture.

“Lately, he used to say that he no longer made painting that people could hang on their walls. At an age when most people are bed-ridden, or at least enjoying rest and solitude, Husain had been working on installation of four life-size Murano glass horses in Doha,” says Chandra, who will be releasing a coffee table book on the artist soon.

One cannot talk about Husain in India without reference to the controversy over his painting Hindu deities in the nude, which enraged Hindu activists.

Chandra, however, asserts that Husain believed in the purity of nudity.

“Nudity is a form of purity, he used to say. But personally, I believe that there is no sense in scratching old wounds and condemning a man for what he did around 35-40 years back. He apologised for it and we should forgive him,” says Chandra.

All artists have a muse. Husain had many, mostly from Bollywood.

From Madhuri Dixit to Anushka Sharma, several screen divas became famous for being this renowned artist’s muse.

Chandra recounts another muse, from the artist’s younger days.

“Way back in 1952, there was an exhibition of Husain’s paintings in Czechoslovakia. They had a lady interpreter by the name of Maria Zurkova. Husain fell in love with her and after the exhibition, he gifted the entire collection to her! They couldn’t get married due to some personal reasons. But they remained friends and Husain sent a painting to Maria on her birthday every year. He valued this relationship a lot.”

Husain had earlier married Fazila, and they had five children –two daughters and three sons.

So what happens to his vast estate, estimated to run into hundreds of crores?

“I’m sure it must have been taken care of by Husain in his life time,” says Chandra.

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