Struck by lightning
Lightning, it is said, never strikes the same place twice. But in India, lightning obeys no such law. This could well be the message of M.F. Husain’s 60 x 10 feet-wide polyptych, also the subject of this eponymous book, Lightning. Painted as the backdrop for a public meeting by Indira Gandhi just before the imposition of the Emergency, the glorification of the nation and the achievements of the government in this striking acrylic by Husain evokes the hypernationalistic narrative in vogue.
A set of contributors from different backgrounds view this work by Husain from varied angles in this volume brought out by Mapin, Asia Society and Tamarind Art (Rs 2,950). Some are more forgiving towards Husain’s portrayal of Indira’s India than the others. These essays are also made absorbing by their exploration of the links between art and nationalism, art and religion, and the influences that shaped Husain’s work, including his signature horses.