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Maqbool Fida Husain, who was hailed as the Picasso of India but was forced to live in self-imposed exile from his homeland due to death threats from Hindu radicals, died in London Thursday. He was 95.

Husain was ailing from age-related problems for some time and breathed his last in a London hospital after suffering a heart attack, family sources in New Delhi said. His family members were with him when he died.

His last rites would be conducted in London and not in India, the sources said.

Husain, who once painted cinema hoardings and rose to become one of the world’s most celebrated artists, was forced to leave India in 2006 after his paintings of Hindu gods in the nude triggered attacks on his works and police complaints against him by rightwing Hindu organisations.

While the Indian government failed to bring him back when he was alive, his death was widely mourned in the country.

“A man of multi-dimensional talent, his death would create a deep void in the world of art and creativity,” said President Pratibha Patil.

“It is a national loss,” said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Husain had accepted Qatari citizenship last year.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters in New Delhi, “It is true that he was upset with the government on some issues and efforts were made by the government and NGOs to address those issues.

“It’s unfortunate that some narrow-minded people tried to judge his creativity and artistic works,” she said.

Husain was born in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, Sep 17, 1915 to Zunaib and father Fida. His tryst with painting began when he learnt the art of calligraphy.

He moved to Mumbai, India’s entertainment capital, at a young age to become an artist and painted cinema billboards to make a living. He went on to be part of the progressive school of artists in he late 1940s.

Controversy and fame went hand in hand for the lanky and silver-maned Husain. He was known to move around barefoot, even in elite circles. He made a name for himself with his paintings on horses and figurative drawings. His untitled work in Christie’s fetched $2 million in 2006.

Husain had a keen interest in films and was fascinated by actress Madhuri Dixit. He made movies with her and Tabu and he was keen to make a film with Vidya Balan.

But Husain, who was a Muslim, could never come back to India due to repeated threats from the Hindu rightwing.

The artist fraternity in India said it was shameful that he couldn’t live in his own country.

Actor Rahul Bose tweeted, “Husain passes away. We hang our heads partly in grief and partly in shame for not being able to let him spend his last days in this country.”


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