16 May, 2021

'Twixt Ma And Religion

With 200 colour and 60 black-and-white photographs, the book is a visual treat. One only wishes it was better put together. Repetitive and badly edited, it doesn't serve Souza's memory well.

'Twixt Ma And Religion

Had bathrooms been peeping tom-proof for little boys, we may have had fewer creative geniuses. Watching his mother bathe was probably F.N. Souza’s most pungent childhood memory, triggering his enduring obsession with sex, and the female body. As a child cineaste, Raj Kapoor often bathed with his beautiful mother and said that "seeing her nude left a deep erotic impression on my mind". That image of water bouncing off a young, nude female body no doubt inspired his sensual celluloid heroines in wet, see-through saris. For Souza, those early sexual stirrings were responsible for his, as he put it, "pronounced oedipal complex" as a "young small boy whose father died prematurely young". Perhaps this explains his quasi-pornographic drawings of female nudes and ill-assorted lovers. Sex rather than sexuality defines the work of this powerful painter who is getting his due posthumously with his paintings fetching stratospheric prices in recent auctions. An exhibition of his paintings was also held at the Tate Britain in London last December.

If it was not sex, it was...

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