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Anant Kapadiya – journey of an impresario; His love for Kuwait was deep and abiding

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Anant Kapadiya lived in Kuwait for more than four decades. Throughout these years, he enriched the country’s cultural tapestry by curating and presenting some of the finest performers India has produced in recent memory. In the process, he helped create an appreciative audience among his compatriots and other nationalities, strengthening cultural ties. On Sunday, Nov 7, Anant Kapadiya passed away in Toronto, Canada, leaving behind an impressive legacy that will be difficult to match. Kapadiya arrived in Kuwait in 1975 when the population was just over a million, and there was tremendous scope for developmental projects and construction activities.

Kapadiya (left) with maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar in Kuwait.

“I moved to Kuwait without knowing much about the country. I was fortunate to have been offered a job by a prominent Kuwaiti company. My initial plan was to live here for two years, save funds, return home and establish a business. But my plans kept changing every year, and I am still around after 42 years,” he had said in an earlier interview to Arab Times. A Mechanical Engineer turned entrepreneur, he ran his own business specialised in selling construction machinery and heavy equipment. Anant Kapadiya’s love for Kuwait was deep and abiding. For years, he thought of moving permanently but couldn’t bring himself to do it. “Life in the 1970s was very simple, but we had all the comforts and amenities,” he had said, reflecting on the time when he first arrived in Kuwait. “Public transport was very different. Taxis were owned and driven by Kuwaitis. There were fixed routes for the taxis – point to point and KPTC bus service with limited routes and service hours. Commuting was a bit inconvenient in those days. We had to share taxis with unknown people. As there were no ring roads and expressways, it took an hour to travel from Seif Palace to Salmiya and a good fifty percent more to Fahaheel,” he recalled.

Anant Kapadiya with RD Burman and Asha Bhonsle in Kuwait

Around this time, Kapadiya began organizing shows and concerts for the expatriate community in Kuwait. “In the seventies, there were no live musical concerts or shows on a large scale in Kuwait,” he had mentioned. “A couple of ghazal singers visited Kuwait on personal invitations from rich fans, and private programs were held at homes for a small group of friends. That was when I realised there was an opportunity to do big shows that would reach out to the general public.” Kapadiya organised his first big concert in 1983, featuring the legendary Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar. “It was like a dream come true for people in Kuwait,” he recalled. “We had two shows for a total audience of 4,000, and the shows sold out in a week’s time. Tickets were pretty expensive at KD 50, 25 and 15 per person per show and people willingly paid the price. Some members of the audience attended the concert on both days.”

Senior Kuwaiti managers of the Kuwait National Cinema Company who had been sceptical of the commercial success of the concerts were shocked at the brisk sale of tickets. They asked Kapadiya to extend the show by two more days, but it was not possible due to the singer’s heavy commitments back in India. “The management of Kuwait Cinema Company promised me their full support for future events while the audience requested me for more such shows in the future. This encouraged me to go ahead, and in the following years, I organised many such large-scale events with prominent artists.” After that, there was no looking back. Kapadiya organised one trailblazing show after another featuring legends like Pt Ravi Shankar, Asha Bhosle, R.D. Burman, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Mahendra Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Jagjit Singh, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt.ShivkumarSharma, UstadAlla Rakha, Ud. Amjad Ali Khan, Ud. Zakir Husain, Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhat, Ud. Rashid Khan, Dr L. Subramaniam, Shahid Parvez, Ud. Shujat Khan, PtAnindo- Chatterjee, Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota, Suresh Wadkar, Hema Malini in Ballet, Anand Shankar in Ballet, Shabana Azmi and Paresh Rawal in plays and a host of other maestros. His audience also included westerners and Arabs who were assured of class and quality in his shows.

Anant Kapadiya

When asked about his international collaborations, he had said, “Having the Indian Ambassador as the Chief Guest at the concerts helped bring in many other ambassadors to the shows. Ambassadors of the USA, USSR, Switzerland, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yugoslavia, Germany, Japan, UAE and Bahrain were regular attendees. The Ambassador of the USSR, along with some other diplomats, requested me to promote artists from their countries. That led me to present the famous Bolshoi Ballet, Red Army Music and Dance Ensemble, Cossack Dancers and Ballets, Vienna Choir Boys, Eaton College Choir, Shirley Bassey, Harlem Globe Trotters and many others.

Seeing the success of these shows, commercial sponsors from the UAE approached me. I also received requests from various artists to promote them in the GCC. It made me feel like a star,” he had smiled. It was not easy to organize shows of such huge magnitudes. It involved huge funds, stress and tension. It was also a logistical nightmare, but Kapadiya held his calm and dealt with situations with patience. “Patience, experience, conviction, confidence and tact are necessary to overcome hurdles. There can also be unexpected developments which can take a person by surprise,” he had said. Experience and success gave him the confidence to do bigger and better concerts. His sincerity, hard work and passion also helped. “Even the artists noticed it, and they cooperated with the promoter. One successful show led to another. Word spread in the industry back home. Various artists approached me and expressed their desire to perform in the Gulf.” In later years, he was also successful in promoting India’s classical music artists to the audiences of Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah and Kuwait’s National Council for Culture Arts and Letters. The latest classical concert was held at the prestigious Al Jaber Arts and Cultural Center. Around 15 years back, Anant Kapadiya became closely involved with the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC), a premier business and professional advocacy organisation that has been at the forefront of deepening and strengthening commercial and cultural ties between India, Kuwait and other nations.

As a member and later President of IBPC, he showcased India’s economic might by inviting some of India’s top industrialists, business people, and entrepreneurs to Kuwait. He was relentless in his pursuit of giants of the Indian industry and economy such as Adi Godrej, Narayan Murthy, Chairman Infosys, R C Bhargava, Chairman & CEO Maruti, Rajendra Pawar, Chairman NIIT, Dr BVR Mohan Reddy, Chairman NASSCOM, Dr Shashi Tharoor, Dr Sanjay Baru, Suhel Seth, Pavan Verma, Srinath Reddy, President of Public Health Foundation of India, Yusuff Ali, chairman Lulu Group. These talks and visits increased the visibility of India’s economic power in Kuwait. Recently during the pandemic and the lockdown, as part of the Indian Community Support Group, he was actively involved in extending help to those in distress. “Shri Kapadia created an unparalleled legacy with his exceptional contribution to the cause of Indian music and culture,” wrote HE Sibi George, Ambassador of India, in his condolence message. “He was also instrumental in introducing some of India’s top cultural and artistic personalities in Kuwait. He remained in touch with me even after his departure. I also recall the long one on one meeting we had where he shared very useful insights on Kuwait, particularly on business and the cultural milieu,” added the Ambassador. Gurvinder Singh Lamba, new Chairman of IBPC, recalled his close family ties with Kapadiya that goes back four decades. “My wife Rajji and I, with Anant Saab’s guidance and assistance, organised Indian classical events where we truly understood the serious effort it takes to put one together,” he said. “With time, not only our friendship grew, but the interaction at the community and society level was an amazing journey. Being of deep compassionate nature, his level of commitment for all he undertook was exemplary. At every stage, his way of organising was a learning for me and others who connected with him.”

A gifted singer, Anant Kapadiya loved to perform and enjoyed every opportunity to do so. While recalling his long association with the impresario, Surendra Wadhawan, Former Chairperson of IBPC said, “He was a very kind-hearted and loving gentleman. His voice was superb and resembled Mukesh Kumar, and that’s why people used to call him the Mukesh Kumar of Kuwait. His fond memories will ever remain in our hearts.” Pandit Ram Kumar Mishra, a tabla maestro from the Benares gharana performed in Kuwait on four different occasions in concerts organized by Anant Kapadiya. He recalls Mr Kapadiya’s knowledge and sense of Indian classical and Bollywood music. “He brought many promiennet artists from the world of classical and Bollywood music for the last 40 years to Kuwait,”said Pt Ramkumar from Delhi. “Everytime, he wanted to present something new to the audience, his death is a big loss to musicians like us because as musicians we always need someone to promote us. He not only did that but he did it from his heart. He was the perfect Man for this work, an amazing organiser and a very good musician himself.”

Tony Jashanmal, former Chairman of IBPC, a dear friend and colleague said, “We were sad when he left for Canada but the consolation was that we would be able to stay in touch. With his sudden death we are devastated that he has been taken from us forever so suddenly. Such an unfortunate loss to his family and admirers everywhere and especially in Kuwait where he spent a great part of his life organizing and spreading the music and culture of India. The Indian Embassy, organisations, the Dar Al Athar Islamiyyah and many Kuwaiti friends were always keen to promote Anant’s meticulously organized programmes. Anant truly epitomized the phrase: “You can take an Indian out of India but you can never take India out of the Indian.” By Chaitali B. Roy Special to the Arab Times

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