New Delhi: President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday led the nation in paying rich tributes to celebrated Indian painter M F Husain even as the government regretted that he had to live outside the country because of some "narrow-minded" people.

Expressing her 'deep sadness' over the demise of legendary artist Husain, the President said, he was a world renowned artist whose extra-ordinary style made him a celebrity on his own right in the arena of contemporary paintings.

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"A man of multi-dimensional talent, his death would create a deep void in the world of art and creativity. He also brought glory to the house as a Parliamentarian," she said.

Condoling his death, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the nation has lost an 'iconic artist' whose 'genius left a deep imprint on Indian art'.

“It is with deep sadness that I learnt of the passing away of one of India's greatest artistic talents, Husain,” PM said in a statement issued here.

“In the passing away of Husain, the nation has lost an iconic artist and the art world one of its most colourful personalities, whose genius left a deep imprint on Indian art,” said Manmohan Singh, who in his initial reaction had described the demise as a 'national loss'.

Husain legend of art

Vice President Ansari said Husain, a "legend of art of our times", was a keen observer of national evolution which was reflected in his art while Singh described the 95-year-old painter's death as a "national loss". Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said his death created a "vacuum in the creative world".

Describing Husain as an "eminent and respected" personality, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said it was true that he got displeased at many instances and he did express his displeasure, but the government and many NGOs tried to reason out with him.

"He was invited to India ...I do not remember on how many occasions. It's very unfortunate that narrow minded people look at art and creativity with same perspective, but the majority of Indian people have never supported their views," Soni said when asked about protests against him and his paintings by right-wing activists.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit also condoled the demise of the renowned painter and described him as an artist who promoted modern art in India.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury described Husain as one of India's foremost artists and creative personalities who contributed to art to take forward the syncretic civilization that India is.

May Allah give Husain peace

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who has been a bitter critic of Husain for his painting depicting Hindu dieties in "poor light", said prayed for peace to the soul of the artist.

"Damage may have been caused to modern art due to his demise. Thats all. May Allah give him peace," Thackeray said.

He went on to add: "as an artist, everyone has a domain and Husain handled his modern art with zeal. However, he 'slipped' while drawing paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses."

However, MNS chief Raj Thackeray said all controversies related to paintings of renowned painter Husain should be laid to rest with his demise.

"Husain was a national asset and his contribution to the field of Indian art can never be overlooked. Whatever controversies happened should be laid to rest with his passing and if his family wishes to bring back the mortal remains home, it should be allowed," Raj said.

Love for his Ferrari in Dubai

The genius of M F Husain may have passed away but his legend lives on in Dubai, a city he loved and spent a lot of time in and more interestingly drove around in his red Ferrari.

He was frequently spotted coming out of local cinema halls after watching latest Bollywood flicks.

"I remember meeting the grand old man walking out of a cinema theatre. He gleamed like a teenager. I don't remember the movie but it was definitely a Hindi potboiler. That defined the man," said Raghav, a Dubai resident.

Husain always interacted with common men on the streets, a habit he did not desert here.

"I think his best moment in Dubai came in November 2007 when he booked the entire tickets of a local cinema hall screening Madhuri Dixit's comeback film Aaja Nachle," said Ayesha, a Sharjah resident.

Temple town mourns his demise

Tears well up in the eyes of 86-year old Khudabuddin Sharifoddin, cousin of M F Husain, as he remembers his association with the iconic artist, who spent his formative years in this town in western Maharashtra.

Husain's last visit here was in 1995, when he received the 'Pandhari Bhushan' Puraskar instituted by a local organisation.

"Then, he came to my house, had lunch and rested for a couple of hours," Khudabuddin said.

"He asked me how did his mother, my mother's sister, look like as he had lost her at an early age. He asked me where was the 'kabr' (resting place) of his mother located," he said, talking to reporters at his house at Kalikadevi Chowk, in the vicinity of the famous Vitthal temple, which attracts lakhs of devotees.

Husain is supposed to have spent his formative years at Zaariwada, a 100-year-old 'wada' (house) located along a narrow lane in the heart of the town.

During the 1995 visit here, Husain had reiterated his bond with his birthplace. And the visit, unlike Husain's roots, is clearly etched in the minds of many of the residents, especially the younger generation.

Then, to the delight of the nearly 10,000 people who crowded to watch him exhibit his deft strokes, Husain drew a sketch of a beautiful woman, in 10 minutes flat, on a bull!

JPN/Agencies