Monday, December 07, 2009

MF Hussain and the Freedom of Art

I like this man. I do not know much about him. I haven’t met him. I haven’t read about him. I am not particularly an art connoisseur. I haven’t even seen his paintings, except for the odd ones that are flashed in the media. I do not know much, as I said, and hence I can’t be making blatant statements about him - good or bad.

But then I saw Meenaxi. And I formed an opinion - not the adamant kind. But yeah, I was floored to say the least. If there could be poetry without words, this movie had it. The source was MF Hussain and the medium was Santosh Sivan. The result was Meenaxi: the most poetically photographed movie I have ever seen. And, then to add beauty to it there was the art direction by Sharmishta Roy who captured the essence of just about everything so perfectly in the movie. How can I not mention the music? If ever you would want to hear music to enrich abstract thoughts and visuals, watch this movie for sheer inspiration. It is an idea bag. I am sure many of us would have wondered looking at ‘life’ paintings of a market place in a village or just a cart and some people on a street and then been amazed by the sheer detailings that goes in. And then the faded, dull earthiness that is evoked through the ironically colorful picture? Well, if you are a lover of that kind - this movie is frameful of that. It is as if MFH has painted every single frame on a canvas and then let Sharmishta and Santosh loose on the location.

So, with not a bad plot at all this movie does make for a great viewing. I found it particularly enjoyable. So, within a week of its release, when a certain sect of people raise their voice over the use of a song - the brilliantly composed, amazingly delivered and wonerfully sung - Noor Un Ala Noor (pardon my inefficient Urdu); it simply beats the purpose of living in a free country. I was all beaten down and ready to face yet another toned down, force-compromised artistic venture. But then something happened that made me stand up and tip a hat to MFH. He withdrew the movie. He lost a lot of money. The technicians employed were the best in India. Tabu was ‘hot’ in the industry. So, I can bet my words when I say he would have lost a whole lot of money in the deal. But that is what he did. He withdrew the movie from the screens. No comments. No arguments. No compromises.

The movie went international, screened in some festivals and got a few good reviews. Died a silent death, if you may. But the movie shot in 2004 - was ahead of its times. And the man who made it, seemed ahead of his society. He has now sadly moved his base to Dubai, I hear. As I said, I have not followed much of this man. But one move, one movie - made it for me.