`Mediocrity has spread all over'
Wherever he may be, Maqbool Fida Husain has a knack of being in the news. He was in town last week to release the English version of his autobiography.
THE CITY'S glitterati had converged at yet another must-do the preview of M.F. Husain's film poster series, Thief of Baghdad, organised by the Gajagamini Art Club at Sankalana, Koramangala. The event also coincided with the release of the artist's autobiography, M.F. Husain Ki Kahani Apni Zubani, that was freely interpreted into the English by journalist-turned-filmmaker Khalid Mohammed.
"The book is not about my life history. It is about ordinary things that happened that I wanted to share," said Husain. But why Khalid Mohammed? Because, "he could translate without losing the essence of thought".
Later, in a chat with this reporter, white-maned octogenarian spoke at length on the lack of understanding of art amongst people and blamed it squarely on the system of education that closed minds, allowing only a particular mode of thought process. Excerpts from the interview.
People do not seem to be able to understand or accept art for art's sake.
Indian culture never presented what the naked eye sees. Take the image of Nataraja. It is widely recognised, it is an icon, but mythical. This is the Eastern concept. In the West, they are more concerned about the physical aspects in which they excel. We went beyond that thousands of years ago. The reason why people don't understand modern art is lack of education. Our education system is too much influenced by Western concepts, and Victorian values have been thrust upon us. Nobody quotes Kalidasa. The educated class is totally devoid of the fine aspects of our culture.
Villagers understand art, they never question. If a rock is painted orange, they would call it Hanuman. Our educated class has to take the trouble to understand our culture, art. They have to shed Western values. For instance, when you visit an art school, you are asked to study the human form. They have models and these models are Greek gods. What have we got to do with them? Where is our culture there? This is the state even after 55 years of Independence. Our education pattern is the main culprit.
Would you consider the failure of your film, Gajagamini, a reflection of this lack of understanding?
Definitely. Also because no one knows what is Gajagamini.
Could this also be because of the public's fear to accept women in different roles, besides a mother, wife, daughter?
That is a social aspect. I'm only concerned with art.
But is that affecting their perception of art?
Maybe. Art is a science, a science of line and colour. It has to be understood first to be appreciated. If you enter a science lab, you will not understand unless you are familiar with the subject. Art is similar. People question without understanding. Should I wait till they understand? The ignorance of the learned is more dangerous than that of the unlearned. The latter have an open mind while the others have already made up theirs.
Do you think people are caught up in a pseudo world where everything is predetermined, and they are afraid to state their individuality? Like in the Calcutta club where you were refused entry because you were barefoot?
Yes. Again I come back to our ethical practices. When you enter your home or go to a temple or sit down for a meal, you take off your shoes. Who are these Westerners to dictate our dress code? So I defied it.
Madhuri has been an inspiration for your paintings. Now it is widely believed that UP Chief Minister Mayawati is your current inspiration.
This is shocking. This story has been going around for four or five months. Have I done a single painting of her? If I have an inspiration, I would paint it right there. I don't wait for other people to tell me.
Could you tell us about your book?
This book is not about my achievements. It only talks about things which I would like to share with my children, friends, and other people. The book has short stories, with three characters, a small boy, Maqbool, and M.F. Husain, which is a brand name. I call this a brand name because nobody bought my paintings when I was plain Maqbool but did so when the paintings were sold under the name M.F. Husain.
Why did you name this art centre Gajagamini?
The very name is romantic. I wanted this centre to be a celebration of excellence. This is not a place for discovering new talent. That is not the intention. Here, we want to showcase anything that is best whether in music, painting, movies, anything. It is going to have branches in other places too like Hyderabad. I plan to open one in New York too. I lost my mother when I was one-and-a-half. My mother was never photographed. I have no image of her. Gajagamini is an image of my mother. It is a tribute to my mother, not only my mother, the universal mother.
Sometimes an art centre becomes a meeting place not for appreciating art but to make contacts to further business interests or move up the social ladder.
I think media should step in here to educate people about art.
In the U.S., you have a separate channel on TV devoted to culture. Look at our idiot box. There is nothing in it except Bollywood. I think over the last half century, mediocrity has spread all over the world. Cowboy becoming President, filmstar becoming Chief Minister: in every field there is mediocrity.
What are you planning to do next?
You don't plan these things. Creativity is when you go into something and in the process you discover something. I can't say what I'm going to do next or what I'm going to do five years down. It just happens.
(The Thief of Baghdad series is available at a limited edition of 20 digital prints each at Sankalana, Ph: 5531210 and 5533043.)
Send this article to Friends by