M. F. Husain : Setting the Record Straight

· Date:June 11, 2011
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

When a person dies at an advanced old age, there is a human tendency to feel sympathy even with a  criminal. Take the case of Chilean dictator Auguste Pinochet whose pictures of an old man walking hesitantly provoked some sympathy. In the case of an artist, and one widely acclaimed as M. F. Husain (who died at age 95) there is not only the above sentiment, but also a tendency to eulogise the man out of all proportion. Yes, he has been hailed as the Indian Picasso (the present writer believes that he is an imitation Picasso).He has been hailed as the greatest Indian painter, not quite accurate, since there have been many great Indian painters in the past and today. Quite amusingly one of the criteria offered for his greatness is that he has put India on the artistic map by being one of the most feted artists at Christie’s ! It is a sober reminder of how values have been distorted. Some of the world’s greatest painters were never auctioned during their lifetime at Christie’s or elsewhere. Yes, Husain was probably the wealthiest Indian artist.

Setting the record straight in the current atmosphere of hyperbolic eulogizing is essential. One can sum up what is problematic about Husain’s art as follows:

1.His excessive preoccupation with bestiality in  art.
2.His  willfuly offensive paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses.
3.His blatantly offensive paintings against the country he claims to have loved, India.

Before looking at these three problems we have to briefly take note of some of the sycophantic expressions of loyalty and allegiance to Husain’s world view. Coming from artist Anjoli Ela Menon they could be excused as that of a camp follower who was also a protégé of Husain. But coming from the charming actress Shaban Azmi and some others of India’s glitterati, it is quite another matter, it is an expression of bad faith. We shall return to this in a moment.

1.Preoccupation with bestiality in art : some of his paintings show women copulating with animals, such as elephants and tigers. Why Husain was preoccupied with this theme can only be explained by his own conscience, if even that. A psychiatrist could offer a better explanation possibly. Did Husain identify with these animals and get a high on that ?   Or was he secretly a misogynist, despite the professed admiration for beautiful women such as Madhuri Diksit who acted in one of his films. He wanted the women to be attacked by animals ?

2.Offfensive paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses. Goddess Durga is shown copulating with a tiger. Goddess Parvati is shown copulating with a bull. 
Goddess Sarasvati is shown stark naked. Goddess Lakshmi is shown stark naked sitting on an elephant’s head. 
Ravana is shown sitting naked with a naked Sita on his thigh.

Naked Hanuman looks leeringly at Sita.  In these many paintings all of which have not been listed here,  the motive is clearly an offence against Hindu sentiment.  Shabna Azmi claimed in her remarks on a Times Now show that this theme was okay because nudity was there in ancient Indian sculpture and one should also consider the erotic art of Khajuraho . Ms. Azmi presumably has not seen Khajuraho, since the erotic sculpture there pertains to ordinary mortals, not gods and goddesses . Her smooth talk can be forgiven since she is not Hindu. It does not matter a cent to her whether the gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon are insulted so blatanly and openly as in Husain’s paintings.

But what about the rest of the motley crew of liberal glitterati on the Times Now show, all taken up by the glamour, glitter, fame, name and yes, the big time money of the artist?
There was the redoubtable Shobha De cooing over the foods that Husain loved etc.

And ofcourse, even the intrepid Arnaub Goswami, host of the show, made dark references to Hindu intolerance towards the Husain paintings. And then, ofcourse, if nothing else works,  the old canard about freedom of expression is brought out at suitable moments, forgetting that even that great champion of individual freedoms John Stuart Mill had clearly stated in his work On Liberty, that freedom of expression is not an absolute right. A man’s freedom to move his hand around ends when it meets the other man’s jaw !

And here the  religious sentiments of millions of devout Hindus had been brazenly offended. And this was acclaimed by the glitterati and the liberals as high art !

3.Offensive paintings against the country he claims to have loved, India : The main
one is the infamous Bharata Mata painting which shows a nude woman (Bharatmata) spread out across a map of India with the name of Indian states on various parts of her body. The reader must be reminded that the painting was part of an exhibition organized by Nafisa Ali under the caption ‘Art for Mission Kashmir.’

Here again, one must perforce ask why Husain is wedded to the idea of portraying Bharat Mata (Mother India) in the nude. Any political statements he wished to make could just as easily have been conveyed with a robed Mother India. Was this an unconscious reply to the much hailed Vande Mataram of Bankimchandra  Chattopadhyaya ?  Did his much vaunted attachment to India exclude India’s national song ?  Perhaps like the fanatical mullahs he too did not like the idea of a Mother India ? His resentment found expression in this manner ? The misogyny comes out quite unexpectedly, this time transposed to Bharata Mata, who is regularly shown in Hindu depictions as fully clothed standing beside a tiger or a lion  

The present writer had previously suggested that Husain should have painted a victorious Durga (Bharat Mata) seated on a tiger or bull and slaying the asura of Terrorism. That was not to be. Instead shortly before his death he exhibited the painting The Rape of India, which shows a young scantily clad (this time) woman being attacked by ferocious animals. Clearly, an unwillingness on Husain’s part to project a victorious India.Instead, possibly some wishful thinking ! Here again his much vaunted attachment to India seems something of a myth circulated by his admirers.           

Then there is the painting where he shows 4 male figures : Mao Tse Tung fully clothed, Mahatma Gandhi in his loin cloth, Churchill fully dressed and Hitler in the nude. When asked why, he is reported to have replied that he hated Hitler and wanted to humiliate him by showing him naked. Clearly then , nakedness in the painter’s mind is associated with hatred. Earlier, when asked about the nude goddesses he had made the lame excuse that nudity is a sign of purity. Which will it be : nudity as purity or nudity as an expression of his hatred ?

Summing Up

Husain left India because of the Hindu protest ( some of it violent) at his paintings and because of the lawsuits filed against him. He took Quatari citizenship , having given up his Indian citizenship. All accounts are that he enjoyed his stay there. He lived in comfort and luxury and enjoyed driving his red Ferrari around. His hosts laid out the red carpet treatment. A chagrined Indian following tried to make out that he longed for India. He was about to embark on his mammoth depictions of Arab civilization ( a wise decision, since this was his natural constituency so to speak). He basked in the glow of international fame especially in capitals such as London where his exhibitions were lauded. Above all, he made immense quantities of money.

It is reported that he was going to start work on the Ramayana. One shudders to think what he might have done with that ! Perhaps the gods wisely took him away before Ayodhya could be desecrated once again.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).


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  1. http://www.breakingindia.com/ Reply

    June 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Death of a Pervert: May His Soul Burn in Hell
    Check this out

  2. athreya Reply

    June 11, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    M. F. Husain : Setting the Record Straight
    He settled down in Qatar since he had the support of Dawood Abraham and the underworld since he had links with them. When he was asked to comment on the publication of Prophet’s cartoons , he condemned it saying that Muslims religious feelings should be protected. 5

  3. S.Raguraman Reply

    June 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    MF Hussain
    In my considered opinion, Hussain was a pervert, who became (in)famous, merely by ‘shocking’ and the so called intelluctuals behind him (including Ram of the Hindu) only want to create an inpression that they are unique , as immature teen-agers very often do. 5

  4. True Indian Patriot Reply

    June 12, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Need for a Hindu version of News
    The pseudosecular-obsessed media will never give the “other” side of any story. The only way to force them to do that is to take up issues to the streets by Hindu organizations. There is need for a Hindu version of any news. It is surprising that there were no demonstrations celebrating the death of Bin Laden by any Hindu groups and we lost an opportunity to know the real Muslim sentiments on Bin Laden’s death. Hindu organizations should have staged mass demonstrations in support of the US for exterminating the most wanted man on earth. Even though Islam does not support democracy, Muslims in India are the largest beneficiaries of our democratic system and freedom of expression. They stage protests on streets at the slightest pretexts. Remember what happened during Gulf war in 1991? There was no problem for the Muslims when Iraq attacked Kuwait. But when the US interfered at the request of Kuwait and started attacking Iraq there were large scale demonstrations in support of Saddam Hussein. The commies also supported the Muslim sentiments. After the Gulf war a lane named “Saddam Hussein Lane” came into existence. Wonder where this lane is? It is none other than in our God’s Own Country!. 5

  5. Sarath E Reply

    June 12, 2011 at 12:32 am

    Bal Thackeray about Hussain
    ” If Hussain’s death is a loss to India’s ,modern art movement , so it be. He was mercurial , obstinate man who gave up the country but not his obduracy”- Bal Thackeray

    Yes, Hussain was challenging Indian Judiciary and ran away from here when Haridwar district court ceased his properties and issued a warrant against him. If he and all those who cry for ‘Freedom Of Expression ‘ respect Indian judiciary or believe in our Secularism, then why dont they appeared in the court to fight for it..?

    Thackerayji ia absolutely right, Hussain was such a traitor who give up his nation to stick onto his obduracy.

    Does the chapter is over..?.. No, Eminent historian Ramchandra Guha now demanded to honour him With Bharatratna…!!!

    Jai ho India… 5

  6. SRL Reply

    June 12, 2011 at 1:35 am

    The tragedy is…
    The tragedy is that M. F. Hussain died without painting the Prophet (fully clothed would be just fine) ! 5

  7. K P Ganesh Reply

    June 12, 2011 at 1:55 am

    Hindu’s are making a fools of themselves!!
    Real sad that to this day, Hindu’s can’t proudly say we are Hindu’s and take up cudgels if need be, against such perverts like MFH. It would have been great if MFH had been hacked to death the day his obscenely perverted paintings on Hindu Gods and goddess very put on exhibition. That would have sent a loud and clear message to not just such perverted people of other religion, but also to a whole host of liberal minded Hindu’s who, for the fad of it, call themselves Hindu’s but are more influenced by Christian way of living and use Muslims to up their secular meter. It is this hoard, the liberal Hindu’s (most of them are extremely lucky to be rich and enjoy their Page 3 living), who need to be put in their right place. Millions of Hindu’s in India can’t be suffering because of a few thousand such Page 3 Hindu’s. They will go to any extent to please their Western counterparts. Hari Om. 5

  8. R.Sajan Reply

    June 12, 2011 at 11:15 am

    a media creation
    1. We forget that he had the support of the international anti-India media.

    2. He chose Qatar only because they contracted him on a huge two-year project.

    3. His crimes in India should have been dealt with here, in the way they would have done with similar crimes in Qatar.

    4. The actresses who let him paint them nude ought to have been ostracized in India.

    5. MA Baby tried to give him the Award only because he offered to pay it back – to the Party. We do not know if he offered also to paint someone of Baby’s choice, nude. 5

  9. Sarath E Reply

    June 12, 2011 at 11:57 am

    M F Hussain
    Pls log on to this link..
    http://www.protestnudebharatmatha.blogspot.com/ 5

  10. mgd Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 1:41 am

    He was careful to paint Prophet’s family ladies fully clad
    I understand that Husain also made paintings of ladies in Prophet Mohammed’s family like Hazrat Khadija and Hazrat Ayesha. However, he was careful to paint them fully clad. Perhaps his artistic expressions did not come to the fore that time. 5

  11. swaraj Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 7:37 am

    psychiatric obscession
    I wonder what sigmond froyd would have name this illness of hussein.When you analyse hussain’s work ,it is basically obscene sexual relation exhibits of goddesses whom we consider or call “ma”,amma or mother.Did hussaien was obscessed with his mother in any way?The edipes complex thing.Or has he in his child hood been traumatised mentaly with any such actions from his mother or some one he considered mother.He didn’t paint madhuri dixit in these actions because madhuri is not been respected at a higher level.so husseins obscession seemed to be with worshipped females who are beyond his reach.probably the mother figure in his life would have been beyond his reach and he saw/or he wished some sort of such oerverted relation ship with her which did not ful fill.so these exhibitory paintings may be what is his hidden desires. 5

  12. Ravi Reply

    June 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Kill the polity
    This is why I am always of the opinion that unless and until the present dispensation of polity is not wiped out, till then we are going to suffer like this and continue to be second class citizens. As simple as that. 5

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