Legendary artist SH Raza reveals plans to open a cultural centre in India, being a bad student and being smitten by Indian beauties
MUMBAI: A tall hoarding at Worli announces the arrival of the world renowned painter SH Raza, the creator of the much acclaimed ‘Bindu’ series. He learnt art in France and influenced the French to pain Indian beliefs, symbols and cultures on their canvasses. But the most treasured document of thi respected artist remains his Indian passport and he takes pride in the fact that his knowledge of Hindi and Sanskrit is at par with his fluency in French.
The 86-year-old painter is all geared up to open a cultural centre either in Madhya Pradesh or Delhi. But an unknown fear grips him when he discusses his plans for India. “I am quite old now and I just hope that I have enough time to complete this project. I truly hope that I can,” he says. Raza visits India every two years but after his French wife Janine Mongillat’s demise, he’s made it into an annual trip.
“I am a bachelor now and I like to be in the company of women. And let me tell you that Indian women are the prettiest in the world,” he says, smiling ear to ear. One of the founders of Bombay Progressive Art Group (which was formed in 1947 to break away from the realistic art propagated by the British in India — members included Husain, Tyeb Mehta and FN Souza) went to France with an agenda to make Indian art popular internationally. And he succeeded.
At this point in life, Raza desires to come back to India permanently but something holds him back. “My companion - my late wife — is awaiting me in Gorbio (where she is buried). I think I need to be with her.”
At present he is in Mumbai to inaugurate the exhibition of a collection of twenty Bindu paintings at Tao Art Gallery. While he can’t exactly recollect when he’d painted most of the works, he vividly remembers the incident that gave birth to his signature bindu.
“I have never been a good student. When I was seven years old, my school teacher Nandaji Acharya made me wait after the school time, drew a dot on the black board and asked me to keep looking at it till he returned. He had realised that my mind was wandering and he wanted me to concentrate my energies and thoughts,” recalls Raza.