Friday Review

‘Shamshad, son of M.F.’

Shamshad Husain Photo Shiv Kumar Pushpakar.

Shamshad Husain Photo Shiv Kumar Pushpakar.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

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Shamshad Husain's colours were often a reflection of his personality.

He lived and died under the shadow of his illustrious father M.F. Husain. Not often given due for his notable works, Shamshad Husain was a victim of lineage. Some judged him from the prism of his father, others found him too reticent, too taciturn. Either way, he was not taken at his real worth. That was the tragedy of Shamshad Husain’s life. A loving son who often spoke out for his father, Shamshad drowned his own sorrows before his liver gave way. A postgraduate from the Royal College of Art, London, Shamshad had much fewer works to speak for him than his redoubtable father. Yet he made his mark with rare simplicity. His was a slow and steady innings; he was not destined to gallop to the top echelons where his father reigned supreme for decades at a stretch.

Always conscious of his father’s giant shadow, Shamshad left his parental home in 1963 to find his own place under the sun. It took him another five years before the first of his works, a sketch was bought by an art-lover for Rs.50. He progressed steadily all these years, never threatening to be a top-grosser yet doing enough to keep the embers aglow. Even as the media steadfastly focussed on the millions of dollars his father’s works were being sold for, Shamshad, without so much as a ripple sold one of his paintings for Rs.4,80,000 at the Triveda auction a few years ago. From Rs.50 to almost Rs.5 lakh was a long journey, but Shamshad was destined to stay on the sidelines.

Not blessed with the flair of his father, he was a trained artist who worked without any flourishes. His style, however, carried his own distinct imprint. The works sang of his heart, spoke of his mind. His subdued colours were often a reflection of his personality. His oft tremulous strokes told the tale of a quivering mind, his swift ones of inherited confidence. Never the one to shout from the rooftops about himself, Shamshad was happy to be just ‘Shamshad, son of M.F.’ – it would be considered a sacrilege if one were to refer to him as Husain in the art world. That description fit only the bare foot giant. Though Shamshad showed his social concerns in many of the works, almost inevitably, his best works were those centring around human relations, those expressing feelings of love and loss, sunshine and shadow. Besides doing a series dedicated to his father, Shamshad also was noticed for a series on ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’.

A man born in the world of brush and canvas, Shamshad, to his Left-leaning friends, was a fun guy to hang out with, somebody who wore his pedigree with ease. Yet, it was a pedigree that denied him the luxury of independence and made personal identity an increasingly difficult quest. Incidentally, when Husain and his other sons and daughters went into exile following threats to Husain’s life, Shamshad stayed back in the country, fighting his father’s many battles.

In the fitness of things though, right to his last days, Shamshad was more concerned about preserving his father’s legacy for posterity rather than his own works. That was typical of Shamshad. A son who could never be celebrated like his father, an artist who could not quite shake off the burden of lineage.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 10:41:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/shamshad-son-of-mf/article7819223.ece

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