Photography

In pictures: The many shades and moods of Maqbool Fida Husain

Photographer Parthiv Shah captures the artist’s comfort with the camera around him.

Many years ago, Maqbool Fida Husain sat at the home of a mechanic – not for getting his car fixed, as most would, but to listen to the poetry the mechanic had penned.

“It was not that Husain was related to him, or that he was doing him a favour,” said photgrapher Parthiv Shah, recalling the moment. “He was genuinely interested in his work. That was the kind of man that MF Husain was.” Shah spent a few years in the 1990s getting to know Husain’s work and in the process, learning more about the artist himself.

MF Husain painting a hoarding. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.
MF Husain painting a hoarding. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.

Often described as the Picasso of India, Husain is mainly known to younger generations as the man whose paintings attracted awe and controversy alike. He received death threats for his nude portraits of Hindu goddesses and “Bharat Mata”, India as a woman with the names of various states stamped on her body. He lived the last years of his life in self-imposed exile, dividing his time between Doha and London. Husain died of cardiac arrest in 2011 at the age of 97.

MF Husain with artist FN Souza. Image Courtesy: Parthiv Shah.
MF Husain with artist FN Souza. Image Courtesy: Parthiv Shah.

Shah photographed Husain between 1992 and 1993, spending time with the artist as he went about his day. Shah was quick to clarify that the photographs were not taken while “following him around”.

“Following someone to photograph them is a very paparazzi-like concept,” said Shah. “As far as I am concerned, it was not how Shah Rukh Khan is followed by photographers, as he drinks tea, drives by in a car with his wife or whatever. In 25 years as a photographer I have rarely shot people I don’t know. While photographing Husain, I was either with him or I was just around him.”

MF Husain in the lanes of Nizamuddin Basti. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.
MF Husain in the lanes of Nizamuddin Basti. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.

In the time they spent together, Shah managed to capture on film the many aspects that made Husain – a man who was as comfortable sipping on tea while reading the newspaper at a hole-in-the wall shop, or walking barefoot through Nizamuddin Dargah, as he was when discussing luxury cars.

This tendency to occupy two distinct worlds with ease, according to Shah, came from the years Husain spent painting film posters, to earn his living. “There would be days where he would call me to chat over a cup of tea and that could be either at the Taj or at the neighbourhood tea shop,” said Shah. “He would hop on to my scooter and we would go.”

MF Husain in the lanes of Nizamuddin Basti. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.
MF Husain in the lanes of Nizamuddin Basti. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.

Around 66 of these candid photographs of Husain, are on display at The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi. In the exhibition Sadak.Sarai.Sheher.Basti: The Recurring Figure, Husain is revealed to the viewer as he merges with the crowd.

MF Husain at Nizamuddin Dargah. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.
MF Husain at Nizamuddin Dargah. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.

“He was very comfortable with the camera around him,” said Shah. “It was very natural for him to be in front of the camera and not be bothered by it and whenever he wanted to stay a little aloof, he would.” This lack of self-consciousness is evident: in some frames, Husain sits alone, enjoying a quiet moment, in some he is engrossed in a deep conversation with a friend, but there are times when he is actively involved with Shah and posing for the camera.

MF Husain and artist Ram Kumar in conversation at Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.
MF Husain and artist Ram Kumar in conversation at Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.

In some photographs, Husain obliges the photographer by lying flat on his back, mirroring an artwork hanging on the wall at an exhibition, or while sitting next to his painting based on Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, almost becoming an extension of the table occupied by Jesus and his apostles.

MF Husain in an exhibition space. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.
MF Husain in an exhibition space. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.
MF Husain in an exhibition space. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.
MF Husain in an exhibition space. Image courtesy: Parthiv Shah.

The images tease out the theatre of everyday life of an artist who captured India’s imagination for decades. The exhibition shows this collection of images that consists of many conversations, travels, accidental plans, and impromptu gestures.

Sadak.Sarai.Sheher.Basti: The Recurring Figure is on at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi, till July 31.

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How technology is changing the way Indians work

An extensive survey reveals the forces that are shaping our new workforce 

Shreya Srivastav, 28, a sales professional, logs in from a cafe. After catching up on email, she connects with her colleagues to discuss, exchange notes and crunch numbers coming in from across India and the world. Shreya who works out of the café most of the time, is employed with an MNC and is a ‘remote worker’. At her company headquarters, there are many who defy the stereotype of a big company workforce - the marketing professional who by necessity is a ‘meeting-hopper’ on the office campus or those who have no fixed desks and are often found hobnobbing with their colleagues in the corridors for work. There are also the typical deskbound knowledge workers.

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Smart is the way forward

According to the Future Workforce Study conducted by Dell, three in five working Indians surveyed said that they were likely to quit their job if their work technology did not meet their standards. Everyone knows the frustration caused by slow or broken technology – in fact 41% of the working Indians surveyed identified this as the biggest waste of time at work. A ‘Smart workplace’ translates into fast, efficient and anytime-anywhere access to data, applications and other resources. Technology adoption is thus a major factor in an employee’s choice of place of work.

Openness to new technologies

While young professionals want their companies to get the basics right, they are also open to new technologies like Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. The Dell study clearly reflects this trend — 93% of Indians surveyed are willing to use Augmented/Virtual Reality at work and 90% say Artificial Intelligence would make their jobs easier. The use of these technologies is no longer just a novelty project at firms. For example, ThysenKrupp, the elevator manufacturer uses VR to help its maintenance technician visualize an elevator repair job before he reaches the site. In India, startups such as vPhrase and Fluid AI are evolving AI solutions in the field of data processing and predictive analysis.

Desire for flexibility 

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Technology is at the core of change, whether in the context of an enterprise as a whole, the workforce or the individual employee. Dell, in their study of working professionals, identified five distinct personas — the Remote Workers, the On-The-Go Workers, the Desk-centric Workers, the Corridor Warriors and the Specialized Workers.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.