10 June 2011

Facebook & The War of Words on MFH

This morning, Arpita Patra, a wonderful soul and IIM-B PGDM Class of 2013 student, posted a comment on her Facebook Wall.

At the time I first read the comment, I had just finished teaching a bunch of curious  students, preparing for the CAT this year. Arpita's thought intrigued me enough to share my perspective on her wall. 

I am reproducing the entire page status, as of 2002 hours on June 10, 2011. Please post your comments on this issue in the comments space.

Arpita Patra
M F Hussain dies a Qatari... coz. we Indians didn't have big enough hearts to accommodate an artist's expression.....seems like the "dark ages" to me.
12 hours ago ·  · 

    • Harsh Kumar And they have say every1 has Freedom of Expression :)
      9 hours ago · 

    • Himanshu Kumar Yadav He was good at art but his hypocrisy in his "artistic expressions" was baffling to say the least
      8 hours ago · 

    • Bharat Jain 
      Arpita, I think you take the great Indian secularists and the literati quite seriously. Please understand that for all the great painter he was, he was also stupid and arrogant. He understood the Human Condition, but did not understand a simple truth - that you should hurt others' religious sensibilities.

      Why did he paint Hindu goddess in nude? Artistry? Freedom of expression? Why did he not apply the same yardstick to, let's say, a painting on icons of other religions? Would he have dared to paint Mary or Fatima in another way, other than with the halo and divinity that is so, rightly, characteristic of them?

      Do you believe Qatar would have given Hussain asylum / citizenship if he had done a caricature of Islamic faith symbols and icons?

      As for these secularists and the literati, where were they when the Danish journalists were threatened by Islamic zealots for drawing the caricatures of Prophet Mohammad? No freedom of expression for these Danish journalists?

      I am NOT a Hindu but I DON'T approve Hussain's work on Hindu Goddess.

      I am NOT a Muslim, but again, I DON'T approve the Danish journalists stupid work, offending the religious sensibilities.

      It is stupid to hurt anybody's religious sensibilities.

      As for the Dark Ages you think we are in, well, it was always there - darkness in our mind and heart, in our attitude toward those who do not think 'like us'.

      I think we ignore what's not convenient.

      7 hours ago ·  ·  1 person

    • Somyakanta Nanda 
      I am a Hindu & I am NOT offended by Hussain's paintings ..
      MF Hussain as I perceive might have been honest, being in India he would surely have known the implications of his work but still that didnt stop him ... call him arrogant for he thought for the sake of art or him being a painter of that stature, he would get away with it.
      may be yes.. but aren't we being intolerant here just the same way MF hussain is being labelled insensitive ?

      Is this what defines MF Hussain entire work? has all his work centered around perverted paintings of hindu goddesses?
      So what?
      Ancient Hindu temples have them. these sculptures were meant to explain the ‘Kama’ aspect to people.
      break down all the temples then.

      why is our faith ruffled by what some person wears at some fashion show or by what someone paints? why are we so insecure?

      who gives the right to a group of reactionary retards to act on our behalf?
      what have these self-anointed bigot hindu-vigilantes done apart from shattering shops on Feb14 or break into discos or destroy the odd heritage masjid ?

      As a person I wouldn't have done something to hurt other's sentiments anyway. But then I wouldn't possibly have been as honest as MF Hussain might have been.

      5 hours ago ·  ·  1 person

    • Bharat Jain 
      ‎@Somyakanta Nanda, you say that MF Hussain has been honest. That is where it all goes wrong.

      By his actions and by his attitude, Hussain has been more than dishonest. Why did he seek asylum in some other country (an Islamic autocracy at that!) if he claim to have faith in the democratic traditions of this country? Is democracy a one-way ticket to offend others?
      We are not discussing his body of work; rather about what he should not have done.

      As for Hindu temples depicting nude figurines, please first find out whose figurines are they - Goddess or someone else. They don't depict carnal pleasure; rather they focus on 'Kama' as one of the four goals of life - called Purusharthas (the other three are dharma, artha, and mokhsa).

      Don't worry about the vandals, they are as much hypocrites as we are; they just show off their discriminatory lunacy while we don't.

      And yes, as a Hindu if you are NOT offended by his work, it speaks less about you and more about the great assimilative power of the faith you profess.

      4 hours ago ·  ·  3 people

    • Hriday Ranjan 
      I can't believe we're still having such discussions! For all preservers of culture like the dude above, have you ever studied a painting of his? Have you appreciated the beauty of brush-strokes or the fabulous use of bold colours in any of his paintings? I challenge you to look up and study any of his paintings and honestly tell me if u were offended.

      For ur information, these paintings were painted in early 70's. Noone bothered about them till some Hindutva group discovered them in 1996.

      The Supreme Court squashed the cases against him, citing that art is a specialised domain, something that the layman neither understands fully, nor is in a position to critique. Moreover, something is defined as obscene if it was created to be displayed or disseminated with an intention to offend the sentiments of others. Are you telling me, Hussain, after working for decades at the highest levels of art, created some paintings to hurt Hindu sentiments?

      It's sad that laymen like you and some Bajrang dal activists, who have no clue about art, have something to protest against the greatest artist of the country.

      But then, art is not for the Bajrang Dal activist. Art, like life, is about appreciating beauty. Something you'd understand if you probably looked at one of his paintings, rather than babble what some idiotic organisation says.

      about an hour ago ·  ·  1 person

    • Bharat Jain 
      Dear Hriday Ranjan,

      You are right: am a layman. Even Arpita Patra and Somyakanta Nanda know it.

      Yes, am not an intellectual and art critic like you. I would hate to be one, for I know how they are defined today.

      Your intellectual arrogance has blinded you: going by your rant, it is obvious you did not understand a single word of what I wrote in the space above.

      For example, let me reproduce what I wrote about the Lunatic Fringe (like your fav punching bag - Bajrang Dal):

      "Don't worry about the vandals, they are as much hypocrites as we are; they just show off their discriminatory lunacy while we don't."

      Now if you had understood just the above idea, you would NOT have had to strain your intellect.

      Also, did I not say that "We are not discussing his body of work; rather about what he should not have done".

      You don't need to challenge laymen like me to study paintings of a Hussain or a Mehta or a Varma or a Shergill or a Khakkar.

      What will laymen like me know about their paintings except maybe the history of the art movement in India?

      Art is for intellectuals like you; by the way, do you know anything about 'Davis and Penck' Cycle of Erosion'?

      Reciprocity, Hriday Ranjan.

      55 minutes ago ·  ·  1 person

    • Bharat Jain Just one more thing, Hriday, do not get personal; it never is good. Never. This was my last post in this space. Have loads of fun :)
      51 minutes ago · 

    • Somyakanta Nanda 
      ‎@ Bharat Jain
      Sir, Hriday Ranjan is a friend of ours. He is currently doing his mass comm. at HCU in Hyderabad. He's into writing. I would very strongly recommend you to check out his blogs at http://heartranjan.wordpress.com/ . If you have a thing for razor sharp sarcasms/puns/no frills writing, then I am sure you will "like" it, in all senses of the word.
      I wanted to tell you all this because I have known Hriday to be a very rounded & free thinker. He would have not meant any offence, it is just that euphemism was never his style. In fact, I don't need to tell you, his writing speaks for itself.

      28 minutes ago · 

    • Bharat Jain 
      ‎@SN, thanks for the link... people say my tongue is always laced with sarcasm I mean no offence, SN.

      Hriday might mean no offence; but his language and ideas betray narrowness of perspective.

      To believe that only intellectuals like him understand art / and whatever is to put oneself on a pedestal.

      Precisely what he did in his post.

      I appreciate that he is a free thinker; but I guess not as much you would like me to believe.

      If he was a real free thinker, he would not have ranted against laymen like me. Free thinking means acceptance of all kinds of ideas, esp. the dissenting ones.

      Somewhere, his word smack of Leftist leanings; maybe I am wrong.

      Have fun, SN. I will check out his blog. :)

      18 minutes ago · 

    • Somyakanta Nanda ‎:) thanks sir
      i am sure u will have a happy healthy dose of "third-party" sarcasm ...:P

      17 minutes ago · 

    • Hriday Ranjan 
      Dear Bharat, I'm sorry if I sounded offensive, or my comments seemed derogatory. I'm neither an intellectual nor an art critic.

      But its interesting that you found my comment offensive. You see, 'offensive' is a tricky word. Since we disagree on this topic, you were offended. May be someone who agrees with me, wouldn't find it 'offensive'. So how do we deal with offence, then?

      Stone my house, tear down my paintings, block art shows, burn books, and threaten to kill me??

      That's what happened to Hussain. In all your elucidation, you never harp on how the political groups reacted. Was it justified? When the Supreme Court itself says there was nothing offensive in the paintings, why are we even talking about them again?

      When there's no legal or criminal case pending against him, why can't a 9o year old painter feel safe in his homeland? Have we been tolerant with him?

      15 minutes ago ·  ·  1 person

    • Hriday Ranjan And yeah, I wish I could not have said what I did, but I did. I can only apologise for it. Facebook unfortunately gives me no option to modify my comment. I'm really sorry, again, for getting personal. I hope we can put it behind us. No offence meant.
      12 minutes ago ·  ·  1 person


Shilpa Suresh said...

Interesting, sir!

In fact, something similar to this was discussed in my IIM B interview. They asked me if censorship is necessary in a democracy like India. I said, "Our people are currently immature and not ready to accept different views. It is not becoming of a so-called secular nation but the awareness required to become broad-minded and accept all views will take quite a lot of time to come. Till then, censorship is needed, just for the reason that unnecessary vandalism can be avoided."
It was a lucky (for me as an interviewee, as I could quote a fact) coincidence that Gujarat had banned a book implying that Gandhi was gay just the previous day!

Ratnadeep said...

Good One Sir,
I may Sound out of Context But....

Well I Would Love to Say That I managed to learn two Very Big Lessons after Completely Getting through the Conversation and Understanding the Nuances ( Thanks to WordWeb Installed in My PC and the Ctrl+Right Click Option )

1.To be Articulate enough, Which I Think is to Posses Good VOCAB is Very important to Make One's Point very Resounding...!!( Atleast For people like me Who can only Manage to use CAPITALS and BOLD Letters to Shout out my Ideology) and May be also The Choice of Words Which We Use Makes a Big Difference.

2.For Someone like me, Who are just so Unfamiliar with world around and knowing a Very little about People like M F HUSSAIN . May Be its High Time that it Stop following Posts on Facebook and Twitter and Start Following People like U and (Hriday Ranjan) and Ur Blogs.

Anonymous said...

@Ratnadeep I Level with you 100% on this one.

Vardhman said...

@sir : aapne to mere dil ki baat keh di(comment kar di)

Vardhman said...

the right to freedom of expression should be should be exercised sensibly.

Sisira said...

Yes,as most of us would agree, freedom and reason ought to be balanced.Freedom always comes with a sense of responsibilty.Somewhere a line has to be drawn as we are in a society where not many are called for the amount of tolerance required to make this world a better place to live in.It might be 'Freedom of Expression' for an artist,it might be hurting their sentiments for somebody else.But,what is more important is that we are to live in harmony.

Though,most of us reading this blog, can appreciate that nudity is not synonymous to obscenity,we cannot expect everybody else to do so.But,what concerns me is that the protestor's could not accept MFH's apology and expaination that his paintings meant no offence.

Hriday said...

Dear Bharat,

I appreciate your bringing the discussion to this forum. Especially after first advising me against getting personal, and then calling me a leftist pseudo-intellectual with a narrow perspective, who has been blinded by his intellectual arrogance !! :D

Nonetheless, I appreciate the thinking that went behind this blog, though I wish you would have included Arpita Patra's reply to her status update. It was a well-written reply.

I have mentioned this discussion in my blog too, and here are my two pennies on the issue:


emperork said...

Hmm..Let's not deride the dead...M F Hussain was a great painter but like all of us,a man with faults..maybe a fault too many.Let's remember his art ,the country that gave birth to such an artist,and what happens when you meddle with people's sentiments and let go of d rest(if der is ne thin else)..peace every1.. Thanku sir thanks every1 else!

Meta Cognito said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meta Cognito said...

I do not claim to know much of any art but I do have common sense in good measure..and I'm going to have to agree with Mr Bharat
To assume knowledge of art as a prerequisite to taking offence to its content is akin to that of driving to be run over by a vehicle...
It was also interesting that you mused on one's leftist leanings in an accusatory tone...something unthinkable in an atmosphere where the Left (sinister?? :P ) is the de facto mainstream...

Anonymous said...

All this discussion might not have happened if the Supreme court might have asked a simple explanation for the paintings to M. F. Hussain that "What did the paintings mean"...