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M. F. Husain’s Through the Eyes of a Painter

Two stills from M. F. Husain’s Through the Eyes of a Painter, 1967, TK mm, black-and-white, 17 minutes 35 seconds.

IN A RADICAL AND SHORT-LIVED initiative in the 1960s, India’s national Films Division (established as a documentary unit just after independence in 1947) invited artists and filmmakers to develop their own experimental projects. Under the direction of visionary chief advisor Jean Bhownagary, this was a major undertaking for a country with a fledgling infrastructure to support even conventional art forms; ironically, it led to experimental cinema in India emerging with the government’s funding and at its insistence rather than in opposition to it. In 1967, this gave prominent painter Maqbool Fida Husain the opportunity to try his hand at film, resulting in Through the Eyes of a Painter, a fragmentary, black-and-white vision of the landscape of Rajasthan running just under eighteen minutes. The film went on to win a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, one example

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