MF Husain longs for India: Amrita Rao

MUMBAI: Amrita Rao is muse- turned-friend for artist Maqbool Fida Husain. In fact, she spoke to him just days before he gave up his Indian citizenship.

But he never discussed the issue with her. Says Amrita, “Our conversations are not really professionally inclined. We discussed art and cinema, and what films he’s watching. He never really told me anything about his citizenship.”

But, Amrita says she’s known him closely enough to understand how he feels. She says, “Because I’ve known him so closely now, because of being his muse since Vivah, I know how strongly he feels for this country and how much he loves it. I know how much he wants to come back.” In fact, she adds, “Whenever I’m there in Dubai and he comes to see me off at the airport, he looks with longing eyes as to when he’ll be able to pass that channel and come to India. That really makes me cringe.” Amrita says that he’s continuously thinking about merging cinema with art, which is his biggest dream. “In fact, he still talks about making movies, and keeps making notes about ideas that he could utilise. At 96 years of age, not many of us could be the best at doing what we did in our prime. I really admire that about him.”

It’s Amrita’s character Poonam from the flick, Vivah, that first enchanted Husain when he decided to paint her. “You know,” she says, “When he painted me, it was as Poonam. Every painting he has done of mine has a full moon, which literally signifies Poonam, which was my name in Vivah, and that is the character that attracted him towards me. So, in every painting of mine that he has done, you will see a full moon in the background.”

And Husain now wants to do another series, depicting Amrita as the quintessential Indian woman, adopting different cultures that India has to offer. Even though Amrita is excited about this series, her favourite work remains the first painting he did of her. She says, “The most precious is the first one that he did. I’d insisted that I wanted him in the painting with me because I had heard that he’s great with self portraits. You can see him painting me in the painting, which is what makes it so special.”