Regrettably, the death of Pradeep Samptani in early November had completely missed my attention, and hence, this belated tribute to a respected cultural promoter.
There was an outpouring of affection in New York where Samtani visited and even participated in a Guyanese conference on the development of cinema in Guyana as well as varied conferences on the Indian diaspora that I played a role in organizing. He also praised the work of the diaspora in the restoration of democratic governance in Guyana. He recognized that without the involvement of the diaspora, especially in America, free and fair elections and democracy would not have been held.
Samptani was hailed as a cultural icon for promoting Bollywood in Guyana. It is unfortunate that hardly a tribute was paid to this cultural icon and one who contributed so much to the development of the cinema industry in Guyana as well as our country's closer commercial and cultural relations with India. His contacts in Delhi would have helped in the increase in development assistance to Guyana.
Samptani was greatly respected and admired by many including the political leaders of Guyana for his involvement in culture. Ravi Dev and I sought to work closely with him on varied projects relating to Indo-Guyanese and India. We met him a few times including to plan the 2017 100thanniversary of end of indenture to Guyana; commemorations were held throughout Guyana for the historic occasion.
Samptani was born in India and migrated to Guyana where he met his charming wife and started his cinema business and commercial ventures on Water Street. I had the honor of interacting with him many years ago on cultural issues and planning and organizing Indian arrival celebrations and conferences on Indian indentureship.
I was aware he was ailing but when we last met at a cultural event in Georgetown just a couple months before his passing, he appeared to be recovering and seemed in good spirits. Yesu Persaud and I praised him for his work on culture. We conversed a lot prior to his illness and when we last met we were to meet for an interview on my research project on the development of Indian cinemas and Indian cultural promotions (Bollywood) in Guyana.
Samptani was a self-sacrifice man, a successful businessman specializing in goods from India among other items. He was more than a cultural or cinema patron. He used his ability for the good of human. He was not selfish – he shared his skills with others. He was a hard-working, intelligent, caring and very thoughtful person. He loved to laugh and smile when we interacted at his business place. I found him to be smart, feisty and wise. He had a lot of knowledge about immigrants who came to Guyana to do business post-independence.
He lived life to the full and had a lively colorful personality that everyone loved. He will have a special place in the hearts of those who remember Liberty Cinema and all who watched Indian movies in Guyana or attended concerts of artistes from India.
Samptani's impact extended far beyond the cinemas and Indian culture. His cinemas and events and programs he organized brought together people of different ethnicities. Regrettably, the introduction of beta videos, VHS, DVDs, and TV killed his cinemas as well as the cinema industry in Guyana.
No doubt, he was a giant among cultural promoters. And the diaspora in America is grateful for the role he played in organizing the 1988 and 2013 Indian diaspora conferences in Guyana. Unfortunately, Samtani was never honored by the government for his work. More than others, he deserves lifetime honor for promoting cinema, theater, arts and Indian culture in Guyana.
Samptani is gone but will not be forgotten. His family should take comfort in the fact that that he played a historic role in the development of the cinema industry and promotion of Bollywood artistes in Guyana as well as film making. His role in the cultural history of Guyana and Guyanese is assured. Thank you Samptani-ji for all you have done to Guyana, India and the Indian diaspora.