Born into a humble family in Pandharpur, Maharashtra to Fida and Zunaib in Sept 17, 1915 he showed his inclination to colours and paintings at a very early age. Starting of his painting sojourn by painting cinema hoardings when he moved to Mumbai, Hussain says on those times, “We were paid barely four or six annas per square foot. That is, for a 6x10 feet canvas, we earned a few rupees. And apart from the New Theatre distributor, the others did not pay us at all. As soon as I earned a little bit I used to take off for Surat, Baroda and Ahmedabad to paint landscapes."
A true-blue son of the soil, Hussain was baptized into the artist circuit way back in 1940 and he soon climbed the dizzying heights of colour, strokes and sheer creativity and became a known figure in the West.
Awards and recognitions followed Hussain for the mesmerizing canvasses he made. Getting the most coveted Padmashree in 1955, Padma Bhushan in 1973 and the Padma Vibhushan in 1991. He also got many international awards for showcasing the Indian art sensibilities in the global arena.
He also dabbled in the world of celluloid by making Bollywood movies like Gaja Gamini, with his muse actress Madhuri Dixit; Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities with Tabu and another movie that was in the pipeline that was autobiographical in nature and titled The Making of the Painter with actor Shreyas Talpade playing the role of the young Hussain.
Hussain was one of the most formidable names in Indian art and was named as one of the 500 most influential Muslim names in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan.
But as much as his work inspired many budding artists in India and gave a conviction that Indian artists do have the capable to make it big in the Western art corridors, he was a man who had unending love for India and everything Indian. With hundreds of court cases in his name for apparently hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus and Hinduism, he blurred the fine line of creative license and social righteousness. With Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad going after him and attacking his house and issuing death threats in his name, he was nonchalant in his attitude and continued his intimate relationship with paintings.
For Hussain who had to live a life of exile and accepted Qatari citizenship, the mere thought must have hurt a man for whom India was considered on the same platform as his own mother. Hussain never wore footwear and was always seen barefoot, a clear indication of the mans morals and psyche, devoid of any frills or fancies who wanted to take it all, be it bouquets or brickbats as is.