Senior photojournalist Pradeep Chandra presents a very child-like M.F. Husain in his latest publication.
M.F. Husain, the iconic artist, continues to be celebrated. Vibrant as his life was, his admirers, fans and friends after his death too, manage to keep his world abuzz. Husain continues to be acknowledged, remembered and honoured through books, exhibitions and various other ways. Now, Pradeep Chandra pays the master artist a tribute through the pictures he shot of Husain at various times in his life. The pictures, accompanied by insightful write-ups by Gulzar, Ayaz Memon, Salil Tripathi and Anil Dharker have been compiled into a book, “M.F. Husain A Pictorial Tribute” (Niyogi Books), which was released recently.
“There are have been many books on the artist dealing essentially with his art but in my book, 220 pages out of its 228 contain photographs of M.F. Husain and not his paintings,” says the veteran photojournalist shedding light on his latest labour of love. Chandra, working with different newspapers, shot Husain consistently over 34 years, on various occasions like his exhibitions, his films' press conferences, birthdays and Eid celebrations. “He had taken most of the photographs from me and he was to publish the book initially but it didn't work out. During the course, I realised he is very interested in getting photographed, quite fond of looking at his own image. He was a very good actor, brilliant in front of the camera,” reveals Chandra, whose affinity with the artist gained him access to intimate spaces.
The pictures of Husain sleeping in a gallery; the last Eid he celebrated at Badar Baug in Mumbai with personalities like Urmila Matondkar, Tabu, and others; Husain in the company of his grandchildren; his birthday with all the invitees wearing fez caps and Husain watching a belly dancer; candid shots of the artist at his Chandramukhi exhibition and many more that feature in the book have resulted from the familiarity between the photographer and his subject. “Once Husain and I were going to his house in Cuffe Parade and I saw a boat. I told him to get into the boat and he did. That image is there in the book.”
Chandra, who has earlier brought out a book on Amitabh Bachchan, “AB: The Legend”, says the pictures can't be classified into any one category. “There are some artsy shots like that of just his feet, or the picture of him taken from the back with two women —one of them I later came to know was his daughter, Raisa. There are portraits, images of him taken at his exhibitions.”
Though the book is called a pictorial tribute, the write-ups aren't lacking substance, attempting to map various aspects of his life. There is an entire chapter dedicated to his bare feet. Husain narrates the incident of prominent Hindi poet Muktibodh's death and how it led him to shun his shoes forever. While Salil Tripathi writes an ode to Husain through a poem, Anahite Contractor writes a letter to him.