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The Rediff Interview/M F Husain

September 19, 2005

Maqbool Fida Husain, who turned 90 on September 17, does not claim to be a thinker. Yet, that does not stop him from chronicling the momentous events, moods and personalities of the last century in a mega-project titled Vision: 20th century, expected to cost Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion).

The various segments of Vision sponsored by banks and financial organisations, including Citibank, Merrill-Lynch and HSBC, consist of 100 paintings.

They will be up for bidding from corporate and private collectors after they are exhibited worldwide.

The czar of Indian art speaks to Senior Features Editor Indrani Roy Mitra about his life, dreams, nightmares and colours.

How did you celebrate your birthday?

This year it was a strictly family affair. I spent the day with my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren -- 35 of them, you know. Parties, formal dinners and meetings were a strict no-no.

Tell us about your ongoing projects.

Apart from Vision, I am depicting the history of Indian cinema in a mural at filmmaker Yash Chopra's [Images] state-of-the-art studio in Oshiwara.

Titled Silver Silence of Dada Phalke to the Golden Dazzle of Madhuri Dixit [Images], it celebrates the 100 years of Indian cinema.

Apart from these, I am up to my neck in another work Husain Decoded.

It's my attempt at decoding my art and restructuring my thoughts. I hope to finish all of these by this time next year.

You are identifying Madhuri Dixit with an age of the Indian cinema.

Yes, of course. She is an irreplaceable part of Indian cinema. If you think I am biased, think again.

Wasn't the veteran actor Ashok Kumar of the opinion that she is the only complete actress Indian cinema has ever produced?

What is the secret of your speed and agility?

It's the gift of God. Pardon my insolence, but I observe the world with a child's eyes.

I am always interested in everything I perceive.

To me, each day the world unfolds like a magic box, full of surprises, resplendent with colours.

It is this sense of awe and amazement that keep me going even at this age.

Chronicling which phase of Vision did you like the most?

It was a pleasure recreating each and every phase of the century.

The past 100 years have been awesome. Man has achieved so much. From growing wings in the early part, he left his mark in every field, ultimately spearheading a revolution in the field of information technology. It's mind boggling to backtrack how man has mastered the world.

No other century has been so dynamic. It was a revelation painting the century.

How do artists feature in your project? Do your works ever have any reference to the great artists of the world or do you prefer to play with colours your way?

I cannot paint a century ignoring its art. Art does feature in my project albeit indirectly. As for artistic influences in my works, I have always been the master of my art.

There are artists like Pablo Picasso, who I have worked with, and there are artists like Rembrandt and the human element of his art, which has left great impression on me.

But as a worshipper of art, I have always absorbed the greatness of my predecessors and evolved my style.

For in the ultimate count, only style stays. Think of Picasso. There were more than 5,000 artists during his time. But time does not remember any one of them.

If you were to start a new project Vision: 21st Century, what would come to your mind first?

I have to live 10 lives to accomplish the task. I am amazed, perplexed and bewildered by this century and its indescribable feats. Be it the technological advancement, electronic revolution or the intellectual achievements, the century will be a treasure trove and it will be quite an experience exploring it.

How do you rate Indian art vis-�-vis the international scene? What future does art have in India?

India has asserted itself in the field of art for the last 5,000 years.

India rules the world of art and it is pointless to weigh it against the international standard.

New York is going to host a huge art auction on September 21 and 22. Thirty-five of my paintings will be up for auction and millions of dollars will be at stake.

Does one need to justify the strength of Indian art?

Has any incident made a strong influence on you and your works?

I don't live for moments. Neither do moments comprise my life.

Life to me is fun to live. One needs to be alert and alive to drink it to the lees.

I am inspired by each and every incident that life offers me.

I draw inspiration from everything under the sun. Even a small stone in a corner of the room may catch my fancy and I can spend hours watching it. Therefore, it's unlikely that any particular incident will have any influence on me.

Headline image: Uday Kuckian

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