Big Idea

An Indian Oasis

Call it the NCPA of Dubai — the Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts is making Indian classical art forms irresistible for expats in UAE

"It’s never too late to pursue what one wants to do in life. 2017 ended on a fantastic note. I did something I always wanted to do — I began learning music,” Jogiraj Sikidar of Malhaar Centre for Performing Arts describes an email sent by Reckitt Benckiser CEO Rakesh Kapoor on January 1, 2018 to his 45,000 employees. The encouraging missive only reflected the 59-year-old executive’s joy on having reignited his passion for music when on a 10-day holiday to Dubai. And today he flies from London to West Asia every week to attend his music class. A feat that was made possible thanks to Sikidar’s UAE-based centre.

Kapoor is one among two dozen corporate honchos, who begin their morning with a class at MCPA. “We have top executives from Nielsen, Coca-Cola, and several other companies in Dubai,” beams Sikidar, who leads Malhaar. A former media professional, Sikidar has worked at Zee, National Geographic, MTV and Nickelodeon over a span of 22 years before he quit his job last July.

Born into a family of musicians in Assam meant that Sikidar was initiated well into the pursuit but didn’t take it up as a profession. However, it would always find a way into his life. When he couldn’t secure a seat at Delhi University on the basis of his scorecard, his proficiency in Hindustani classical music enabled him to get admitted to Kirori Mal college, that had a vibrant theatre and performing arts environment. During his graduation year, he met senior journalist Vinod Dua, who happened to hear him sing one day. A few months later when Sikidar approached Dua for a job, he insisted that the college graduate had to train his daughter and him in music. It’s here that Sikidar got the opportunity to interact with maestros such as Padma Shri awardee Rita Ganguly, a senior disciple of Ghazal queen Begum Akhtar. After much persuasion, Sikidar managed to persuade Ganguly to take him under her tutelage. This exposed him to the nuances of stage performances and event marketing.

A few years later, when Sikidar moved to National Geographic channel, it was his background in theatre and music that impressed the recruiter and got him the job. From there on, a demanding work schedule left no time for music. In 2006, he mov


You don’t want to be left behind. Do you?

Our work is exclusively for discerning readers. To read our edgy stories and access our archives, you’ve to subscribe