Aabid Surti is a cartoonist, painter, writer, activist and environmentalist who grew up in Dongri, about whom the filmmaker Pramod Pati made this stop-motion film, in 1970.
ABID: At that time I had my exhibition on at Taj Art Gallery, and accidentally he dropped in and that was the first exhibition I had done on mirror collage. And seeing all the broken pieces of mirror he just got baffled, confused and after a few minutes he approached me and said ‘Abid I want to make a film on you with your work.’
SHAI: Did you know him already?
ABID: No, no, that was the first meeting. It was just accidental. He just dropped in, and that was the first introduction.
SHAI: What was your art practice at that time?
ABID: I am a painter. At that time I had my show. I had experimented in painting my house, which had become very popular. All the newspapers and magazines had covered it. That was an experiment of living within a painting. When you have a painting on the wall or you have a painting displayed somewhere, so you are living with a painting. So I got the idea, why not live within a painting. I was living in a single room at that time, so I started painting the walls and whatever came in the way – like fan, furniture, floor, ceiling, cupboard, even small utensils, chairs, everything became a part of one painting.
80-year-old Aabid Surti is a national-award winning author, cartoonist and artist. He has 80 books to his credit. On every Sunday morning he visits the topmost floor of his apartment complex in Mumbai’s Mira Road district. He rings the doorbells of all 56 apartments in the complex, asking residents a simple question: “Do you have a leaking tap in your home?” Aabid is accompanied by a plumber and a volunteer. The plumber gets to work, plugging leaks in the homes of those who answer with a yes. Aabid apologises to those who say no. Over the years, Aabid says, his efforts have helped save 10 million litres of water – and also won him fans and followers.
The autobiographical novel Musalman was an account of his childhood in the poverty-ridden Dongri area of Mumbai. His latest novel, Sufi, describes the parallel lives of two friends: the author himself and a man called Iqbal Rupani, who rose to become the kingpin of the Mumbai underworld in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1975, his fictional version based on the Devil's Bible, entitled The Black Book, created a nationwide controversy. Even amidst critical acclaim, it was translated into seven languages and voted Book of the Year in Kannada. He earned the nickname the "Salman Rushdie of India" after his Black Book was published. He has together with his son Aalif Surti and Chandrika Vyas, Rima Kashyap also penned a controversial and hard-hitting novel called In Name of Rama inspired by a true incident during the demolition of the Babri Masjid.