This director never came to set, tore up script, fought crew, film was pulled from theatres after just one day because..

This painter-turned-filmmaker did not like to come to sets, even tore the script of the film he was directing

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This director never came to set, tore up script, fought crew, film was pulled from theatres after just one day because..
MF Husain

MF Husain is considered one of the finest artists India has produced. The painter was revered and derided in almost equal measure in India where his paintings caused controversy and drew admiration at the same time. But at the peak of his fame, Husain ventured into filmmaking too. He made two feature films – Gajagamini and Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities. It was on the sets of the latter the Husain’s eccentricities tested his crew members.

MF Husain and the making of Meenaxi

Meenaxi starred Tabu in the lead role. The 2004 film also starred Kunal Kapoor and Raghubir Yadav in pivotal roles. Featuring a soundtrack by AR Rahman and lyrics by Gulzar, Meenaxi was a musical success and was also praised by critics, having won acclaim in international film festivals. However, the film’s making was a tough one as Husain was seldom on sets. In a masterclass session posted on YouTube by Angenieux Lenses, the film’s cinematographer Santosh Sivan recalled, “I’ve not had any big confrontations, except with the painter MF Hussain. I shot Meenaxi with him. He was someone who would actually not even come on the shoots. He’d tell us the scenes in the morning, show us some sketches, and he’d say, ‘You can’t use these colours..’.”

Sivan recalled that once during a disagreement about the dialogue in one scene, Husain tore the script. “He was a very interesting person. I once said, ‘These dialogues are too much to be told on the road’. Then he looked at me and said, ‘The dialogues are too much?’ He took the paper, tore it up, and said, ‘No dialogues in this scene’,” the cinematographer-filmmaker recalled.

Meenaxi’s controversial release and eventual acclaim

Meenaxi was released in theatres across India on April 2, 2004. However, its stay in the theatres was short-lived. Muslim organisation All-India Ulema Council alleged that the film’s Qawwali song ‘Noor-un-Ala-Noor’ was blasphemous as it used verses from the Quran directly. Some theatres pulled the film in just a day. While Husain’s son defended the use of the verses, protests grew and the angered artiste withdrew the film from all remaining theatres within a week.

The film was eventually screened in the Marché du Film section of the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation. The film also won the National Film Award for Best Production Design, and two Zee Cine Awards as well. This was Husain’s final directorial. The artist passed away in 2011 at the age of 95.

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