“Kapoor Bol Rahen Hain” was Wasim Kapoor’s answer when I first called him in May 1995. I was researching the legendary painter, Amrita Sher-Gil then. Scripted by journalist Sathya Saran it was intended to be a short film on Amrita, directed by Ketan Anand. In our first face-to-face interaction, Washim Kapoor was cordial and cooperative.
The film on Amrita Sher-Gil was shelved due to financial constraints. However, my association with Kapoor became intimate day by day. Always dressed in jet black, he was forever smiling. Never have I noticed a brooding Wasim Kapoor. We conversed on umpteen topics like arts and culture, literature, cinema and politics. There were heated debates and each time I decided to end our relations, our bonds grew stronger. He and his family were some of the true liberals I have come across respecting Shiva, Allah, Jesus Christ and Wahe Guru equally.
It was a scene of discipline, dedication and total involvement at work when Wasimda painted. Specialising in oil paintings and pastels, he also excelled in mixed media. His paintings were concerned about relevant social issues, sufferings of the commoners and humanitarian values. Even his staunch critics never dared to term his nude paintings vulgar.
There cannot be any comparisons between the works of Wasimda, Jogen Chowdhury, Bikash Bhattacharya and Kishan Khanna. Each was individually unique in his way. I remember being introduced to legendary Maqbul Fida Hussain by Wasim Kapoor. He was a true admirer of Hussain. Wasim Kapoor never encouraged comparative studies of works. He believed drawing comparisons was in bad taste.
I have seen very few painters so cine-literate like Wasimda. He could analyse a Devdas, a Guide, an Abhiman with no special efforts. A diehard fan of Amitabh Bachchan, he created a beautiful portrait of Big B which he later autographed. Hearing his death news, Amitabh Bachchan sent his condolence message to me grief-stricken.
The relation Wasimda developed with Dimple Kapadia was also talked about in art circles. In October 2001, he visited Dimple Kapadia with me at Park Hotel. The auburn-haired gorgeous Dimple was in town for an exhibition of her Faraway Tree aroma candles accompanied by Maneka Gandhi. Both struck perfect harmony in their first conversation. They were friendly and Wasimda knew aloofness paid in relations with celebrities.
He and his family were close to the late Sunil Dutt who encouraged his niece Hena in her work a lot. Wasimda cherished his conversations over the telephone with Dilip Kumar, Saira Banu, Dev and Vijay Anand. His one-to-one talks with Shashi Kapoor at Hyatt Regency during a get-together in December 2004, encompassed many topics. I still remember Debashree Roy applying the brush on a canvas with Wasimda on April 4, 2006, at his residence. His paintings of female stars, scripted by my media friend late Shashi Baliga the same year, was a class by itself.
A leftist by ideology, Wasimda was a fierce critic of wrongdoings by politicians, even if they were from CPM. No wonder his popularity was equal with all political parties. On a personal level, his father, the late Sadiq Lucknavi (an Urdu scholar), Wasimda and his bhabhiji, Sheila Kapoor have been really helpful for my career, even helping me financially. His portrait of DCPL Chairperson, Shanta Ghosh still haunts my memories.
Just a couple of days before his demise we spoke on the telephone. He was not too well but sounded enthusiastic as ever. I am heartbroken by his death.