WHO IS RISHI SHAH?

The man at the cen­tre of pi­anist Karan Joseph’s mys­te­ri­ous death de­coded by old col­leagues, cred­i­tors and elite com­pan­ions from NYC CER­TI­FIED MAR­I­JUANA PRESCRIBER. VI­SION­ARY BULLY. BRAVE CAN­CER SUR­VIVOR.

Mid Day - - FRONT PAGE - BY AASTHA ATRAY BANAN

‘His Man­hat­tan apart­ment over­looked the Hud­son… I don’t know what they [New York hoi pol­loi] thought of him, but he knew his way around’ Kub­bra Sait

A MAN hardly dis­cussed in the me­dia un­til Septem­ber 9, Rishi Shah has re­peat­edly hit head­lines since pi­anist Karan Joseph was found dead in the com­pound of his Ban­dra Band­stand build­ing. Known to the in­die mu­sic com­mu­nity as pub­lisher of RAVE mag­a­zine, and mu­sic en­tre­pre­neur, he, how­ever, is re­mem­bered by ac­tor and an­chor Kub­bra Sait as “a cer­ti­fied med­i­cal mar­i­juana prescriber”.

“That’s how he was in­tro­duced to me,” she tells mid-day, re­call­ing an event she hosted in Hawaii in 2011. This is when she first met Shah. When he learnt that she was to hol­i­day in New York the fol­low­ing year, he said, “Come over, stay with me. I will take you to some fash­ion par­ties.” “And I said, yes, why not,” she re­counts. His Man­hat­tan apart­ment over­looked the Hud­son, and at the par­ties they fre­quented, he seemed to know the right peo­ple. “I don’t know what they thought of him, but he knew his way around. It was clear he was well-off and he shared a ca­ma­raderie with the peo­ple he met.”

An Amer­i­can life

Scour­ing the In­ter­net con­firms Kub­bra’s claim. Pic­tures of Shah on the web­site of the New York So­cial Diary show him par­ty­ing with the Duchess of York Sarah Fer­gu­son, Sachin Ten­dulkar and Deputy Head of Mis­sion and Con­sul Gen­eral at the Bri­tish Em­bassy David Lel­liott. Kub­bra next met Shah in March 2017 when she hosted a party to re-launch RAVE, a mu­sic mag­a­zine he had first in­tro­duced in In­dia in 2002. “I hadn’t kept in touch with him ever since New York. But [when I met him], he was the same. A jit­tery en­ergy sur­rounded him.”

Shah lived the life of a high-fly­ing elite thanks to his suc­cess­ful urol­o­gist fa­ther Dr Shashi Shah. The man with a 40-year-long ca­reer in Amer­ica, much of it at Franklin Hospi­tal, Val­ley Stream, NY, has held sev­eral pres­ti­gious po­si­tions in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent of Med­i­cal Staff and Chair­man of the Med­i­cal Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee. In the 1980s, he is be­lieved to have per­formed the first per­cu­ta­neous nephros­tolitho­tomy (key­hole kid­ney stone) surgery in Long Is­land, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in The South Asian Times. He met Pushpa when they were stu­dents at Sawai Man Singh Med­i­cal Col­lege in Jaipur. She did her res­i­dency in Re­hab Medicine at Al­bert Ein­stein Col­lege of Medicine, but gave up her prac­tice a few years later to fo­cus on fam­ily. The Shahs are a prom­i­nent cou­ple in the In­di­anAmer­i­can physi­cians com­mu­nity. Their younger, Rahul, runs an as­set man­age­ment firm with wife, An­jani in New York. Rishi Shah, him­self, also ap­par­ently has a back­ground in medicine, but chose to work in the en­ter­tain­ment busi­ness.

He is be­lieved to have started his ca­reer at Arista Records in 1992, and since has been on the board of prom­i­nent com­mit­tees, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Young Mu­si­cians and the Mul­ti­cul­tural Mo­tion Pic­ture As­so­ci­a­tion.

A wannabe star maker

Shah re­turned to In­dia in 2002 and launched RAVE, which he said at the time, would be In­dia’s an­swer to Rolling Stone.

Pop singer Shibani Kashyap met Shah at the same Hawaii event as Kub­bra. But it was in New Delhi in 2003 that she was first in­tro­duced to him when she was be­ing in­ter­viewed for his mag­a­zine. “RAVE was do­ing well then. He seemed to have a pas­sion for mu­sic and played the gui­tar. He was pos­i­tive about my tal­ent and later got me to record three songs with Silva Ganesh, which he pro­duced. I don’t know what hap­pened to those songs, though,” she says. This trait of lead­ing on mu­si­cians is re­spon­si­ble for the neg­a­tive im­age he has within the in­dus­try. Two days ago, Kolkata-based band, Un­der­ground Author­ity, re­leased a video that re­counted how they had been short­changed by Shah. Lead gui­tarist Adil Rashid told mid-day that he met Shah at a gig in Blue Frog last year, where he ex­pressed his de­sire to help them record new ma­te­rial and get them gigs. “He even trav­elled to Kolkata to con­vince us. He al­most begged us. We ar­rived in Bom­bay and recorded five songs at Fa­mous Stu­dios.” Once that was done, Shah be­came a changed man, Rashid al­leges. “He ridiculed us in front of his staff. He told us we were s*** and he was the rea­son we were do­ing any­thing at all. We don’t know where those songs are. We were never paid for them.”

A man of many faces

Event man­age­ment and public re­la­tions firm Pic­ture N Kraft owner Parul Chawla han­dled three events for Shah, and re­mem­bers him ini­tially for his con­fi­dence and his en­thu­si­asm. “I re­mem­ber how he fired his former PR rep on the phone right in front of me. He was ag­gres­sive and ec­cen­tric but had the zeal to do some­thing. He had an eye for tal­ent too. For RAVE’s re-launch, he sniffed out a tal­ented bunch of kids from Dhar­avi and had them per­form.”

The non-pay­ment of dues comes up again when Chawla says that her firm was never paid for manag­ing the launch. “Shah said it was be­cause he wasn’t keep­ing well and had been ad­mit­ted to Lilavati Hospi­tal,” she says. A well-known mu­si­cian, who re­quested not to be named, con­firms Chawla’s story and in fact shares that Shah said he was suf­fer­ing from pan­cre­atic can­cer and had 18 months to live. “For old

‘I re­mem­ber how he fired his former PR rep on the phone right in front of me. He was ag­gres­sive and ec­cen­tric but with an eye for tal­ent’ Parul Chawla, owner, event man­age­ment and public re­la­tions firm Pic­ture N Kraft ‘He told me he was suf­fer­ing from pan­cre­atic can­cer and had 18 months to live. For old times’ sake, I’d meet him once ev­ery few months to find out how he was’ A Mumbai-based mu­si­cian and col­lab­o­ra­tor

times’ sake, I’d meet him once ev­ery cou­ple of months to find out how he was.” Projects he col­lab­o­rated with Shah on would rarely take off, and his rep­u­ta­tion was get­ting sul­lied, so they parted ways.

A former col­league and scriptwriter re­mem­bers him for his sound knowl­edge of mu­sic. “His heart was in the right place and he had a vi­sion for his com­pany. But, he seemed to be grap­pling with emo­tional is­sues, and that got in the way of his work,” she says.

Most peo­ple who knew, and worked with him, will agree he was ar­ro­gant and a hor­ror to work with. “He is a bully,” said one ac­quain­tance. “Can he kill or drive some­one to death? I don’t know.”

PIC/PRADEEP DHIVAR

ILLUSTRATION/RAVI JAD­HAV

PIC/KAUSHAL PUNATAR

Rishi’s par­ents Dr Shashi Shah (in pic on fac­ing page) and Dr Rupa Shah (in sari) are prom­i­nent names in the In­dian-Amer­i­can physi­cians com­mu­nity.

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