Ace businessman Dushyant Soni talks to Aakanksha Naval-Shetye about the success of the international awards event he organized in Dubai, encouraging artistic talents and his rare skill of being able to communicate with crows!
A businessman by profession, Dushyant Soni is a man who wears many hats with great elan. From acting, to dancing and music to harbouring a rather rare talent of being able to communicate with crows, and from working towards encouraging arts to bringing together communities across countries, he has constantly been pursuing his artistic passions. We caught up with him in Dubai where he had recently successfully organized the Mumbai Samachar Global Gujarati Icon Award Show. The celebration of 202 glorious years of Mumbai Samachar in Dubai was a spectacular event that brought together a gathering of distinguished individuals to honor the newspaper’s historic journey and pay tribute to the outstanding achievements of beloved Gujarati celebrities and successful businessmen, who have brought pride to the community on the global stage.
“It’s an honour to be able to organize an event of this magnitude for Mumbai Samachar, which is not only India’s oldest, but also the oldest newspaper of Asia and one of the most prestigious publications. What made it all the more special was that it brought together some of the top and the most celebrated artistes, personalities, businessmen – like Shahbuddin Rathore, Yogesh Mehta, Rizwan Sajan, Kinjal Dave, Anandji, Bharat Bhatia, Ashish Chauhan – from across the Gujarati communities to honour and felicitate their achievements,” says Soni, who’s thrilled with the response and recognition the event received internationally. Although the businessman reveals that he’s not into events management, hosting this awards show was a great moment.
Balancing his time between work in Dubai and India, the ace businessman is more than just a gold trader by profession. A dancer at heart, he has not only won leading Dandiya and Garba competitions back home in Mumbai, but now also organizes such competitions across the globe that nurture and encourage young dancers. Talking about his passion for the arts, he reveals that he had always been fascinated with acting and dancing. “Yes, I was very serious about wanting to take up acting as a profession. In 1990 I had even done theatre and my play Bakra Kishton Mein, which was a remake of the Pakistani play that got very popular too. It was originally a six-hour long play which I edited down to an hour. I was barely 17 year old back then and we performed it during the Navratri days. And I directed and acted in it. And it was very challenging as I played almost three roles alone. Its success prompted me to take this up more seriously,” shares Dushyant, who joined Kishore Namit’s acting institute post that.
“Yes, I had even pursued an acting course back then with Kishore Namit’s acting institute as a youngster. I was in the same class as Akshaye Khanna there and we were seniors of Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor who joined in the next batches. I did go on to act in a few serials and even did a role in the movie Dahak. Apart from that my brother Amit (Soni) and I even participated in Antakshari based TV show and we emerged as winners on it. But back then there were other responsibilities so I couldn’t pursue it as a profession. And even though I have changed tracks now, I still harbor a love and passion for it. I always knew that the business side was purely work and to fulfil my duties, but my heart still lies in this industry,” he admits candidly.
Recalling his early association with Mumbai Samachar, he says that though he gave up his Bollywood movie dreams, he did not give up on his passions and by 1997 emerged as a leading name in dance entertainment at the most prestigious Navratri competitions organized by Mumbai Samachar. “I have been playing garba for almost 30 years now, and for 25 years I was the champion. In the last five years, I have stopped playing and now I am on the panel of judges at almost all the top Navrartri events and competitions in Mumbai. We have even organized a few competitions there. Besides this I even organize workshops for enthusiasts and I do this free of cost at India Club here,” shares Soni. “For me encouraging our culture is far more important than making money out of this. I have neither the intention, nor a desire to make money here. You can’t put a price on art. I can never think of selling this.”
He recalls that it was in 2020 that COVID slowed down the speed, although it could not put brakes on his plans completely. “There was no Navratri happening. So we came up with a virtual online competition – Digital Global Garba – that became quite a hit as people could participate from their houses. On the panel of jury we had members from across the globe and India – from Dubai, from UK, US, from Mumbai and Surat, Ahmedabad – we had 33 jury members. This was a free for all competition and we had as many as 2500 – 3000 entries from across the globe and we declared 200 winners. We continued this in 2021 too. Then the plan was to take it offline and we associated with Mumbai Samachar for it. So we chose one winner from different events across Mumbai and had them all compete in a grand finale on Dussehra. Mumbai Samachar used to have such a competition back in the 90s but then they stopped and we have brought it back now.”
Interestingly, Soni shares that none of these are money-making ventures for him. “By God’s grace, my business is doing well and these are pursuits that I’m not doing to make money. This is what I love and I’m simply doing it for the love of it,” he says. In fact, high on ethics, Soni insists that any of the relatives of the jury are not allowed to participate for the prize. “We want to keep the process fair and transparent. Even my sons are not allowed to participate. They can play, but not win. Even our jury comprises of deserving names,” he says.
It was this successful association back then that prompted them to organize the awards event in Dubai. “Nilesh Dave showed great faith is us and that meant a lot. In fact at the success afterparty, he declared that for the next five years, they would want us to organize these awards events for them,” says Soni.
The multi-faceted Soni also harbours one rare skill that only three people in the world can boast of – that of communicating with crows! “It’s not the same as mimicking them, it’s different to imitate. They actually come when I call them. This was my hobby till I was 18. Then I gave it up and it was in 2011 – 12 that I tried it again and it happened,” says Soni about his unique talent that he first developed back when he was barely 10 years old. Among his other talents, is also singing.
It was during the pandemic times that Soni released his music video called ‘Garba Gujarat’ along with his friend Chetan Gharvi. “I had a song so we decided to shoot it. Chetan sung the song, while I choreographed, directed and even featured in it. It was released through T-Series. Then in 2021 we released my album Krishna on T-Series. I sung the song too in this one,” he shares.
Talking about the balancing act Soni insists that if you have a passion, you will find a way to do it. “I love my family, so I give them time too. I give time to my arts, my business, all of it! If you want to, you can do it. I firmly believe in it.” Going forward, Soni says, “I am happy to associate with any things that promotes our art and culture.”