Bijli was for years like a light under a bushel, a Cinderella yet to meet her prince. M.F. Husain’s mammoth 12-panel, 10 ft by 5 ft painting of 10 or more horses, also called Lightning, resided, forgotten, in the painter’s museum in Faridabad, Husain ki Sarai.
Painted almost 30 years ago, it was trotted out occasionally as a theatre backdrop. Till it found a suitor in New York-based K. Srikanth Charugundla of Tamarind Arts last week. He took it to the Big Apple, leaving behind a Rs 2 crore cheque and a beaming Husain, who says, "Painting is like falling in love, you have to have faith in it."
Apparently Charugundla, who made his fortune in telecom, was chasing this work for over a year. The desire fulfilled itself when he came down on a three-day India visit. "He spent a day scrutinising the painting for damages and packed it at night," says Husain. People can quibble about size mattering (in inch per rupee terms, Tyeb Mehta’s triptych Celebration that went for Rs 1.58 crore at Christie’s was pricier). But Husain has another ace up his sleeve: another 12-panelled painting titled Cultural Panorama with dancers, musicians and other aspects of Indian customs.