Now Streaming on Netflix: Fan-Style Docu ‘My Friend Husain’  
MF Husain is hailed as the Picasso of India.
MF Husain is hailed as the Picasso of India.(Image Courtesy: Suresh Natarajan)

Now Streaming on Netflix: Fan-Style Docu ‘My Friend Husain’  

Out of the blue, a fan-style docu-feature on MF Husain made by Barkha Roy has become a conversation piece among art circles, ever since it popped up on a prominent streaming channel.

The 70-minuter includes interview footage with Husain, which indicates that he had made himself accessible for the project. Master artists SH Raza, Krishen Khanna and Jatin Das are, among those, who have given nostalgia laden bytes on Husain.

Roy, a film producer of Bollywood entertainers like Sanam Teri Kasam (1982), and sister of the now reclusive actress Reena Roy, had to face a slew of legal wrangles over the film which was completed over four years ago.

Barkha Roy shares the frame with Indian artist, Krishen Khanna.
Barkha Roy shares the frame with Indian artist, Krishen Khanna.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook)
Reportedly the artist’s son Shamshad, who passed away two years ago, had given his written permission for the project. However, Owais, artist and filmmaker, the youngest of Husain’s six children, had raised objections. Paradoxically during his lifetime, Husain had often asserted that he wanted the saga of his struggle as a poster painter of Hindi films and his ascent to international recognition to be directed by Owais. After meetings with several Bollywood actors who could play his role, the artist had firmed Shreyas Talpade.
After meetings with several Bollywood actors who could play his role, the artist had firmed Shreyas Talpade.
After meetings with several Bollywood actors who could play his role, the artist had firmed Shreyas Talpade.
(Image Courtesy: Facebook)

The project went under the cracks. Following relentless protests against some of his paintings by right-wing groups, Husain had fled from Mumbai and had become a citizen of Qatar in 2010, dividing his last years between Doha, London and New York.

Barkha Roy’s effort also incorporates recreated scenes from the life of Husain, enacted by a Jatin Sharma, who was 23-years-old at the time of the shoot, wearing a snowy fright wig.

Barkha Roy with the actor essaying the character of Husain. 
Barkha Roy with the actor essaying the character of Husain. 
(Image Courtesy: Facebook)

The outcome isn’t a definitive portrait of the artist, far from it. Roy who first met Husain at a bank in Bandra has clarified that she was not aiming for a biopic. Presumably, to her pleasant surprise the film chummily titled My Friend Husain, won the Dada Saheb Phalke Award (not to be confused with the central government’s National Award), given by Mumbai’s Dada Saheb Academy.

While Husain’s prolific output of canvases, sketches and handicrafts such as woodworks of musicians, carts and horses, fetch premium prices at galleries and auctions, the fate of his film work appears to be in a state of limbo.

The Films Division rarely screens his Berlin festival award-winning documentary Through the Eyes of a Painter (1967). As for his feature films Gaja Gamini (2000) and Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities (2004), these are almost forgotten, though the artist would frequently assert, “As an artist, I feel complete only as a filmmaker.”

MF Husain on the sets of <i>Gaja Gamini</i>
MF Husain on the sets of Gaja Gamini

Right to the day he passed away in London six years ago at the age of 95, he was determined to film a screenplay written by himself located in a hostel for working women.

While preserving his admiration for Madhuri Dixit whom he considered his muse -- to the extent of always carrying a sketch of her in his wallet -- the artist had longed to paint a portrait of Vidya Balan after being bowled over by her performance in The Dirty Picture (2011). Ditto Anushka Sharma in Band Baaja Baarat (2010).

Vidya Balan and Anushka Sharma captured Husain’s imagination.
Vidya Balan and Anushka Sharma captured Husain’s imagination.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Altered by The Quint)

All-expenses paid invitations to Qatar were extended at different times to Vidya Balan and Anushka Sharma and their families. He was sorely disappointed when the invitations were declined politely.

Unbeknownst to many, Husain has left behind a vast oeuvre of off-the-moment documentaries and short films, including Jugalbandi , a 28-minuter DVD showing him paint to the bandish being performed at a 1988 concert by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. These are held under copyright by his family production banner, Cinema Ghar.

Like it or not, then, in the absence of any filmed footage besides sporadic interviews on television channels, Barkha Roy’s My Friend Husain, is about as close to the artistry of the exiled Maqbool Fida Husain as you can get.

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