The first stop was Dubai, in May 2008, to meet India’s most famous painter, 93-year-old MF Husain who fled to Dubai after becoming a target for Hindu nationalists who opposed his portrayals of Hindu goddesses in the nude, attacking galleries that showed his work and even offering a reward for his murder. Husain was stunningly fit, and moving around with agility and energy.
When we arrived at his home, he was dressed in his customary black robe and dark glasses and his trademark mop of white hair and white beard. Sitting on the floor, he was painting. As the crew trooped in, Husain remained oblivious of the commotion around him, not even bothering to look up from his canvas. He waved his paintbrush around rather like a magic wand and, in a way, it was as fast as magic because by the time the equipment and lights were in position, his painting was finished.
In exile in Dubai, away from his home in India, he was expecting a reprieve anytime, wanting nothing more than to go back to his country. “I miss the smell of India,” he said. His picture, with the cutting-chai glass in hand, captures his love for the enduring magic of his renamed beloved city – Mumbai.