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Skilled Hands converting couplets

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Saturday, June 13, 2009 04:32:00 PM, Aleem Faizee,


 Rasheed Artist with one of

his recent paintings.

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The powerloom factories might have been the only available option for the Malegaonians, the deprived people of the Muslim dominated textile town in North Maharashtra. Yet the amount earned after working in these factories was sufficient till a few decades ago to make one’s end meet easily. This perhaps is the reason why the town has surprising number of poets, laureates, scholars and artists who would work in these factories like a petty labourer during the day and then till late in the evening would indulge themselves in creative activities.


Rasheed Artist is one among these people in Malegaon, who despite all odds went on to achieve such a position, which is difficult for many even under most favourable conditions. Hanging against the walls of the main halls inside the plush bungalows owned by the dignitaries in India as well as in various other countries in the world, Rasheed Artist’s paintings are the point of attraction for visitors since many years. Fabulous achievement indeed! However the journey that led to these walls was not easy and for Rasheed Artist it needed a matchless and unprecedented effort since his childhood.


Malegaon in the sixties though had quite a good number of schools the management during those difficult days could hardly find a good drawing teacher. Under these circumstances having a professional artist to teach the art of painting to the students using watercolor was beyond one’s imaginations. However Rasheed Artist was resolute. He was just 15 but when he failed in fulfilling the strong desire for the art in the corridors of the education campus, he decided to quit the education. “It was my craze for paintings that forced me to drop out of the school in the early age”, he recalled.


Holding the brush in one hand and the color box in the other, he began roaming here and there to satisfy his lust for the art. It was then that Wad Saheb, who used to travel different parts of the country as part of his plan for talent-search, as Rasheed Artist described the renowned artist from Shimla and a Director in Camel, the stationary giant famous for manufacturing pencils, watercolor and other stationary items till recently, came to Malegaon. “He visited Malegaon for consecutive years in the seventies, shared the valuable tips with the students like us and arranged painting and drawing competitions to encourage us”, Rasheed Artist said before adding, “In his second visit to Malegaon in 1968, I won the competition. Wad Saheb was thrilled watching the improvement I had attained in one year.”


In Wad Saheb, Rasheed Artist found a mentor. But he was not a lord and further continuation by now had become unbearable for his parents. To bear the expenses hence he began working in a local powerloom factory along with his father without of course sharing hardly any money with him for the regular household needs. Instead he would work for three or four days in a week and the moment he would get some cash would rush to Mumbai in his humble and very simple attire that is part of his persona even now and would wander around the art galleries.


“Jahangir and Taj Art Galleries in Mumbai were my favorite hunting grounds”, he recalled. His encounters with the masters of the time including the legendaries Jahangir Sabhawala and Sarvayya at these galleries are still the precious moments of his life. “My comments and discussions would make them dumb. They could not believe a humble looking person like me had such a sound knowledge of canvas paintings.”, he said.


In 1970 he permanently moved to Mumbai. At V. Shantaram’s Mumbai Central Film Department, he started working on banners, sketches and art works for the upcoming films. He was earning reasonably well now. But earning was never in his priority list. He decided to leave Mumbai and return back to Malegaon. In the hometown once again, his talent received a surprising turnaround. “Innovation and creativity have always been my passions. Back in Malegaon I began working on the popular couplets of Urdu poets and tried to portray them in my paintings”, he recalled.


There was no looking back after that. He soon acquired perfection in transferring the couplets over the canvas with amazing interpretational skills. Hundreds of the canvas paintings portraying the couplets by the poets like Ghalib, Feraque, Meer, Majrooh, Rahat Indori, Shabina Adeeb, Parvin Shakir and others were ready in quick succession. Subsequently it became customary for the Malegaonians to gift Rasheed Artist’s paintings to the dignitaries who would visit the town.


While the one gifted to veteran musician Naushad painted on the famous couplet Aabadiyon main dasht ka manzar bhi ayega; Guzroge shaher se to mera ghar bhi ayega is still greeting the visitors in his hall, Shabana Azmi has put the one presented to her father Kaifi Azmi portrayed on Aik woh keh jinko fikre nashaib o faraz hai; Aik hum keh chal pade toh behr haal chal pade in her office. Majrooh Sulatnpuri was lucky to get two paintings. Of these two, the one on Sutoone daar pe rakhte chalo saron ke charaag; Jahan talak yeh sitam ki siyah raat chale is in Canada and the other on Phir koi masloob hua sare rahe tamnna; Aawaze jaras pichle pahar taiz bahut hai is part of the splendid collection at Dubai Urdu Library.


Simultaneously Rasheed Artist also perfectly worked on portraits of the people he loved the most. They included the freedom fighters, world leaders, artists and poets. When Dilip Kumar visited Malegaon in 1980, he was thrilled to see his portrait. The portrait presented to him is now greeting the people at his Bandra residence. The portraits of Irani leader Ayatollah Khomeini and Mirza Ghalib presented to Ferhad Parizaad of the Iranian Cultural Centre in Mumbai in 1985 are in Iran.


Today Rasheed Artist is the ultimate and globally recognized name when it comes to canvas paintings. In fact he is perhaps the only person in the Indian sub continent who portrays the Urdu couplets over the canvas with such a sound interpretational skills. Yet he has few more dreams in his life. “Apart from writing a book on Sketching and Painting, it’s my dream to transfer the history of the Urdu Ghazals from Ameer Khusroo till date over the canvas”, he said in a determined tone.


Rasheed Artist at this stage of his life is finding it easier to run the expenses of his family. However to run his dream project is of course an expensive affair. Moreover looking at him who resolutely turned down the offers from the London and Australian Art Galleries for the auction of his paintings, it seems impossible for him to compromise for the sake of funds needed to work on these projects. Yet one thing is certain. The stubborn in him would not let him sit idle. It would be really interesting to see how he achieves these targets.



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