MF Husain’s life and brush with controversy

Jun 9, 2011

1553001'Husain, an artist or a butcher?' asked the Madhya Pradesh journal Vichar Mimansa in September 1996.

No stranger to controversy, the artist, thus, got into hot water for his artwork, created decades earlier, that featured Hindu goddess Saraswati allegedly in the nude.

Deploring him for allegedly harbouring an anti-hindu spirit in his craft, Bajrang Dal activists wrecked 23 tapestries and 28 paintings of the artist's displayed at Ahmedabad's Herwitz Gallery a month later.









"If Husain can step into Hindustan, what is wrong if we step into his house," wrote Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray of the 1998 incident where right-wing acvtivists ransacked Husain's house vandalising his works once again.

Twenty-six were arrested by the police in connection to the incident.


Husain's 2004 film Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities, directed by his son Owais, featured a song titled Noor-un-ala-noor (light of the superior kind in Arabic)— a phrase from the Koran in praise of prophet Mohammed, reappropriated to describe the beauty of heroine played by Tabu received the ire of Muslim organisations led by the India Ulema Council. Husain, who wrote and produced the film, decided to pull the film out of theatres instead of deleting the song from the print.


In 2006, Husain ruffled feathers once again by being the artist behind nude Bharatmata — a sacrosanct figure in Indian consciousness and pre-Independence art. The painting was featured in the magazine India Today.

A non-bailable warrant was issued against him by a Haridwar court the following year. However, in 2008, the Supreme Court dropped all charges against Husain describing his Mother India as a work of art.









In 2007, Husain, still infamous for his 'nude' paintings, was to receive acclaim from the Kerala government in the form of the prestigious Raja Ravi Varma award

Sabarimala spokesperson, Rahul Easwar, one of several protesters had the Kerala high court grant an interim order to stay the granting of the award.

The petition was later disposed off.


In 2010, Husain's absence rather than presence stirred debate with him accepting Qatari citizenship.

Born 32 years before India attained Independence, myrid legal cases and threats to life had prompted the artist to seek sanctuary in Dubai. Husain died a Qatari citizen on June 9, 2011 in London, United Kingdom.