Muzaffar Ali's Sufi Journey from filmmaker to painter

These days Ali is revisiting his passion for painting
Last Updated 30 May 2022, 02:39 IST

Muzaffar Ali, who wears many artistic hats, including that of filmmaker, fashion designer, poet, cultural revivalist and painter, has been giving in to an impulse to put his brush to canvas.
Known for evocative films like "Umrao Jaan" (1981) and "Gaman" 1978, told DH that these days, painting is wooing him more than his other creative pursuits.

"The creative ecosystem within me was going through a sea change," said Ali. "My kind of film was in the doldrums, so painting became a way of expressing myself. It happened very organically and naturally."

"Painting was my earliest form of creative expression. I used to paint, sketch, and draw in school. Later, I moved to Calcutta, became more serious about my art and held an exhibition of my paintings in 1968 at the Gallery of Fine Arts. Then came a phase when I moved away from painting and was drawn to poetry and filmmaking. I also launched a fashion label called House of Kotwara."

Ali said that painting is taking up more and more of his time these days.

"I have a passion for abstraction and a very acute sense of mysticism and landscape. I move from drawing to acrylic to oil. I love collages and three-dimensional interpretations of a collage. Calligraphy is my poetic metaphor. I love the horse and the human face and form."

Ali feels art is taking centre stage, and curation is becoming more evolved and professional. He anticipates an art renaissance in the country fuelled by the pandemic where people have had more time to connect with their creative sides.

Sufism and its teachings have deeply moved Ali. It permeates all his creative works. His live painting at the Awaaz-e-Ishq, an event celebrating art, poetry and music at the Bikaner House in New Delhi, had him creating a canvas inspired by the verses of the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi.

"The journey of a painting that comes to fruition before many people is fraught with fear and suspense; a strange sensation of whether it will live up to their expectations and become the story you want to tell. Rumi spoke to me as I talked to the audience through my brush, using metaphors and ways I had acquired while communicating with my canvas. I was painting with an inner eye which does not see what you do but strangely reflects what you have done. That is the wonder of art."

Ali is also working on a film on Rumi that he plans to shoot in Turkey with an international cast.

"Rumi was moved profoundly by the human condition, and of all my own identities, it is as a humanist artist that I would like to be remembered," said Ali.

(The author is a lifestyle, celebrity, and travel feature writer who has worked in a senior capacity with leading publishing houses.)

(Published 30 May 2022, 02:30 IST)

Follow us on