Abirpothi

India’s only daily art newspaper

Muzaffar Ali: The multimedia artist before there was multimedia artists

Ruby Brahmbhatt Jagrut talks about the versatile artists, who has not only made beautiful paintings but has also directed classic films like Umrao Jaan

What makes some people creative powerhouse?

There are artists who just do art. Then there are ones who see, live, touch, carry art wherever they are and whatever they do. They are not just gifted and blessed, but also incredibly lucky. Muzaffar Ali is one such powerhouse.

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He turns everything he lays his hands on into a piece of art. A poem. An emotional experience of what is lost and left behind. He started as a painter, went on to become one of the greatest filmmakers, created a designer brand, worked with weavers, restored Sufi poetry and music into our lives. In his signature subtle way. His Umrao Jaan and Gaman amongst his other film and TV works are legendary. He also found time to dig into the kitchens of Indian nawabs and came up with an amazing collection of recipes in a book form.

His last exhibition had some works where he came up with a bunch of ‘White on White’ paintings (disclosure: I curated it). He had turned Urdu calligraphy into art in these works. He is in a continuous process of evolution.

He is in a continuous dialogue with the inner and outer worlds through his expressions, which keeps bringing newer layers of aesthetics each time he gets onto a new blank canvas. It may be his own work or that of weavers he works with or fashion garments he does with his wife, Mira. One such manifestation is an annual three-day Sufi music show he organizes in Delhi called Jehan e Khusrau, which celebrates the music and poetry of Sufi saints as a tribute to the patron saint of Indian Sufi poetry – Amir Khusrau.\"\"

There are artists who perfect what they have been doing all for a long while. Then there are the ones who keep getting into something entirely new all the time. Muzaffar is a true multimedia creative soul. And he did that much before the advent of computers and digital living.

He is in a good company. We have had a Rabindra Nath Tagore, a Satyajit Ray, a Le Corbusier who could float in and out of various forms seamlessly, and still come up with first class stuff. What makes them happen is a question to ask? Perhaps they are very curious and retain that child’s sense of wonder, keep charging their deep inner wells of creativity and calm, always excited about doing newer things and also not afraid to fail. And they have an inner eye, which keeps their measure, consistency, and continuity in place.

They are important because this spirit has brought humanity at large to most beautiful things we experience through our evolution. Some artists remain rooted at the centre. Some are always pushing the edge. And world is made beautiful by both kinds.

We have had Muzaffar Ali as member of Abir India jury for our First Take show earlier. We will be coming up with a long interview of this versatile artist sometime next week.

Here are some more paintings by Muzaffar Ali, some from the show I curated:

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