New Delhi: Barkha Dutt: Why did you surrender your Indian passport and accept Qatar citizenship? After all you have been living outside for many years, why did it come to a point where you had to give up Indian citizenship?
MF Husain: I think there is a reason for that because in 2006 I decided to work on three major projects
- History of Indian civilization from Mohenjedaro to Manmohan Singh
- History of other civilizations dating back to Babylon
- And cinema which is close to my heart - it is my love - 100 years of Indian cinema, it would be completing 100 years next year
Had I been 40, I would have fought them tooth and nail but here I want to focus only on my work, I don't want any disturbance. I need all comforts and facilities to the maximum.
Still as they say Hindi hain hum watan hain, saara jahan hamara.
These boundaries are only political boundaries, especially the visual arts is a universal language, you can be anywhere in the world but the work that you do has a strong link to 5,000 years of our great Indian culture.
Barkha Dutt: But Husain sahab you make it sound like a very practical decision about how Qatar has given opportunities unavailable in India. But you were also quoted as saying that India had rejected you. Is that what has influenced your decision to take up Qatari citizenship?
MF Husain: I never said India has rejected me, whatever they do my whole vision is there as I said there were opportunities here so I came here, what is citizenship? It is only a piece of paper because when somebody has invited me with so much love and affection wouldn't I go and have dinner with them? Would I then say say no, I don't want meat; I only eat vegetable? I am not dogmatic about these things.
Woh kehte hain na "jahan bhi pyar mila main uske sath ho gaya". I am a great lover, I love people where ever I get warmth. In India of course 99 per cent Indians love me and still love me, but politics has always had in the history a detrimental effect on creativity.
Right from Galileo to Kalidas, all great artists were harassed. Even Neruda, Chaplin, there are several examples.
Because in the end all of this boils down to politics. If this were legal or a social problem it could have been solved. The courts also gave a historic judgment. But this is politics and a few people you know can spoil the broth.
Barkha Dutt: Do you not crave in a sense to be home?
MF Husain: I am already there in spirit and everything. What is this physical presence? In today's world with so much technology and communication you are everywhere and a creative person is not bound by any geography. It is immaterial where you stay. I am an original Indian painter and will remain so till my last breath.
Barkha Dutt: But the fact is that many many people here believe that the government, the political establishment could have done much more to enable you to come to India.
MF Husain: I don't pay any attention to all this talk. Whatever they think it's their job to do - it's not disturbing me or stopping my work.
Barkha Dutt: But do you believe the government could have done much more? The Home Minister has promised full security. He says you should return?
Barkha Dutt: I don't want to go into these details. Let them do their job and I am doing my job. Let them do their job and it's good - I don't deny or question their intentions and all that. But I have to finish, there are 3 projects and I cannot work in India. It is impossible for me to work in India; there are so many reasons, everyone knows them. If they really look inside themselves, their conscience will tell them everything.
Barkha Dutt: Your critics are raising questions about your choice of next destination - that you have chosen a country that's not a democracy, why Qatar?
MF Husain: As I have said I got a sponsor and all facilities so I am working here. I have been doing that for 60 years. I don't have a single studio in the whole world. I just go spread my canvass in hotel rooms, friends' houses. I am like a folk painter who does things on the spot. This is how I have developed my way of painting. There are many great painters, thinkers I respect them, but this is my way of doing things.
Barkha Dutt: Was this a painful decision for you to surrender your Indian passport?
MF Husain: This is all, I think the media is suffering from all the pain and agony, I am not. I am in an ecstasy for the last 40 years (laughs...) creating films, writing few words here and there and creating the visions. I have expressed only 10 per cent, 90 per cent is still inside. I don't think I will be able to do it, I think I have to take that with me to my grave.
Barkha Dutt: What about your family, friends, children, how have you explained it to them, how have they responded?
MF Husain: The have grown up right here under this tree so they understand me well. At one time they thought I had gone crazy, you know, about a certain heroine who worked with me! So, this goes on.
Barkha Dutt: Do you believe you will have absolute freedom to express and create in Qatar? It's not even a democracy.
MF Husain: I have been working for last 2 years and didn't find any hitch there. But now you can't be 100 per cent sure what will happen next, so it is a gamble, but a creative gamble.
Barkha Dutt: Looking back at the controversy around some of your paintings, groups like the Shiv Sena say you should apologise first and then return to India? Would you express regret again?
MF Husain: Regret for what? I have always said whatever I have done, I have done with conviction and love but in the process if somebody is feeling hurt I regret it. But my conscience is clear.
Barkha Dutt: You're 95, in your twilight year, usually people want to return home, people need a sense of home much more than other stages of life.
MF Husain: I really, I fail to understand this physicality of an existence on which you are putting so much stress on. I am not 20 years old that I need a house; I have passed that stage. When you're young you're always ready to pounce on anything, like a prey you jump on it. As they say, first you accumulate, jise bhog kehte hain, now this is the time when you say: Neti neti neti...not this; not this.
This is the time to eliminate everything and come to zero, this is what I am trying though I have not reached that point. Only saints can do that.
Barkha Dutt: You said had you been forty you would have fought tooth and nail. Why don't you fight today? Why did you stop fighting?
MF Husain: Haan, that is true but that stage is gone. At 40, if I wanted to marry a daughter of a king - which was impossible, I would not have given up; I would have kidnapped her. But now that stage has passed.
Barkha Dutt: People are still asking why don't you come back and face the courts, only 3 cases remain so people are asking why don't you come back and face what comes with it?
MF Husain: I am already there. I don't think people want to touch me physically. And hopefully the art that I have created will live on forever. What is this, 7-8 years of life? It is miniscule in the time, the universe, is taking. It is nothing.
Barkha Dutt: I do get that. Do you feel betrayed by people of India, by government of India? Do you feel it should have never come to this stage?
MF Husain: No, not at all. I have never said it and I will never say it. I do not feel betrayed at all. This is about a few people who have not understood the language of Modern Art. Art is always ahead of time. Tomorrow, they will understand it.
Barkha Dutt: Do you not feel more could have been done to create a more secure environment for you?
MF Husain: I have already said the government is doing their job and I am doing my job. Nothing is stopping me; I can return tomorrow. But please know I remain an Indian painter whether I am painting in Paris, London, New York or Qatar. I am a free citizen; I haven't committed any crime. I haven't murdered anyone. I haven't taken a single paisa from anyone.
Barkha Dutt: What is your sense of where home is today? Is India still home to you?
MF Husain: Again you are talking about physicality. I am beyond physicality. People who understand that don't miss me.
Barkha Dutt: How far do you think freedom of expression can go? Do you think politics of intolerance is shadowing our discourse in India?
MF Husain: Luckily in India there is no serious curb on creative painting. I don't think it was ever there. Just once there was that attack in Baroda, but what has happened with me is a small thing. We remain a free country.
Barkha Dutt: But do you think the freedom to express can and should be an absolute right? Again I ask you would you have done anything differently?
MF Husain: Again, whatever I have created, I think and hope it will remain forever. I hope you understand what I mean.
Barkha Dutt: How difficult have the last few years have been for you Husain sahab?
MF Husain: Again you're using the word difficult. There is no difficulty, no problem whatsoever. Of course, there are the cases but my lawyers are dealing with them. I haven't run away! Also, across India there are more than 30,000-40,0000 of my works. What do you say about that? That is the real thing. That is the most important thing I have given to my beloved country. I haven't given that to any other country.
Barkha Dutt: Any unfinished dreams at 95?
MF Husain: The dream is to go on as long as you are alive you are contributing and with the love of my people not just from my country even outside, it's fully supporting me. Not even for a moment do I feel that I was betrayed. Some people don't understand my work; they will understand in time. I love them also. Everybody has a right to express their opinion; after all we are a great democratic country.
Barkha Dutt: What would be your message to Indians who have been watching you?
MF Husain:Tu kahe to main unwan badal dun, lekin ek umr darkaar hai afsaana badalne ke liye (only titles of paintings are told, the real story takes a lifetime) Whether my paintings are done in New York, Qatar, only the title has changed, nothing else. In my small way, I have told my own story, which I hope will remain the hearts of millions of my countrymen.