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I will always be an Indian-born painter: M F Husain

April 03, 2010 17:23 IST

Legendary artist M F Husain, who was recently granted Qatari citizenship, has said that he will not snap his links with the country of his birth and will always remain an Indian-born painter.

"I will always remain an Indian-born painter. There is no ban on me," Husain, who surrendered his Indian passport in Doha recently, told The Times.

But whether 94-year-old Husain will return India any time soon seems unlikely.

There is the risk of further court cases, attended to by his lawyers, and the threat of violence remains, the paper said.

"The (Indian) home secretary called saying they would provide security. I said, Tell me, (former prime ministers) Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi -- had they lesser security? Both were assassinated.

"I'm at the stage of my life where I like to work in peace and full comfort. At this age I can't just sit in one room and not go out," he said.

Husain said he is in talks with steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal about a new British museum. Last week, he received a lifetime achievement award, presented by John Bercow, the Commons speaker, on behalf of British charity Next Step Foundation.

Keith Vaz, Member of Parliament, the patron of the charity said: "Clearly he is an iconic figure in the history of art. He is the greatest living Indian artist. This is not about politics or religion, this award is about art."

Husain said: "I have done so many things over the years, poetry, films, painting. I hoped that one of them might click... Then came this uproar, which has lasted 10 years. I told my friend, there was a doubt whether I'd go down in history for only paintings, but this has secured a permanent seat."

That uproar concerns works by Husain, considered by many as India's Picasso, in which Hindu goddesses are depicted in objectionable condition.

After a career spanning six decades, Husain suddenly became the focus of anger in 1996 when a magazine article titled 'M F Husain: A Painter or Butcher' denounced him for obscenity. Since then, Husain has faced concerted harassment from people who reject his claims that he meant no offence. His exhibitions were attacked, he received death threats and about 900 legal challenges.

Despite the Indian Supreme Court dismissing the charges, Husain has lived abroad since 2006, mainly in Dubai and London.

Husain said that Qatar's First Lady Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser asked him to contribute to a new museum in Doha and also offered him citizenship.

"I was surprised; it was a great honour. I wanted to work on three major projects -- and for that I needed a sponsor," he said.

These projects are to paint the history of Arab and Indian civilisations as well as making a new film (his first, in 1967, won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival).

"It will be a comedy called comedy.com," he said.

Responding to scepticism about whether he will be given creative licence in an undemocratic nation, he said that so far he has been "totally" free.

He acknowledged that Qatar has a favourable tax climate, but said that he has paid his dues in India. When not in the Gulf, Husain goes to his home in Knightsbridge in London and paints or reads at the British Library, which he describes as "out of this world".
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