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Missing Viru: A heartfelt tribute by former ad man and popular Bollywood writer, Kamlesh Pandey

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Missing Viru: A heartfelt tribute by former ad man and popular Bollywood writer, Kamlesh Pandey

Virupaksh Hiremath, Viru to all of us from the Class of 1969 at Sir J.J.Institute of Applied Arts, is no more. Gold Medalist from the Class of 1969 and much awarded by CAG and Ad Club for his enviable work as well as the Art Director of the Year many times, Viru is no more. On April 5, 2017 at around 3:30AM in Bengaluru, he breathed his last, leaving not only his family and friends but all the designs he could have visualized and created…logos, symbols, campaigns, brochures, labels, packaging, posters and hoardings, with an original Viru stamp, will be waiting for him forever to finish them. They will now never be finished. They will never know his precise touch, his bare, almost minimal style, the innovative way he played with space within a frame, the subtle colours he allowed to sneak into his work, it is all history now. Glorious history but history nonetheless. Indian advertising and design will remain a little poor without Viru.

There is not enough space to talk about his work so I will stick to only the personal stuff.

Viru Hiremath was the name of our collective envy because not only his work, even his personal daily life was so beautifully and perfectly designed and colour coordinated. His house wherever he lived, his clothes, the buttons on his shirt, the shape of his collar, the fall and pleat of his trousers, his shoes, his hair right down to the streak of grey (in later years) were so perfectly designed and colour coordinated, we used to often tease him about it. This was too much, a man needs a little bit of chaos, imperfection, disorganisation. How could a man have everything around him, his work and his life so well designed and coordinated? Because we were more like rolling stones, anything and everything was cool for us. We often analysed Viru’s perfection that may be because he a has everything—-an incredible portfolio of work, the most beautiful wife Surekhaji, two lovely kids Mahesh, a renowned advertising photographer, and Archana, a homemaker and contemporary dancer, who proves herself to be as much of a son as Mahesh, a house which is any art director’s envy, three equally wonderful grand daughters and a son-in-law Dr.Manoj Bharucha who was there for him 24x7, looking after not only his health but his finances and investments too which gave Viru financial independence to sustain his lifestyle and generosity towards his loved ones. As if blessed with such a family was not enough, he was also blessed with friends like us who envied him, loved him, admired him, felt proud of him, looked up to him, learned from him, worked with him, applauded his every award and teased him, pulled his leg, joked at his expense and enjoyed his hospitality. Yes, Viru was our collective envy which spiced our friendship as much as sweetened it. 

I never called him Viru unlike my other classmates, I always called him ‘Hiremath Saab’ which he often resented because it made him look older. But older he was. In 1965, when we rolling stones entered Sir J.J.Institute of Applied Arts in the 1st Year, we had just passed our SSC or 12th but Hiremath Saab had already done his graduation before he came to JJ. Not only had he done his graduation, but he was already married when our pimply gang was still ogling at girls from a safe distance. And not only married but the day I met him for the first time in JJ, he confided in me that just that day he became the father to a son! Yes, his son Mahesh was born on that day. And Hiremath Saab made me promise to keep his secret, especially from the girls in the class!

From July 1965 till April 5,2017, which, either by sheer coincidence or by some divine design, also happened to be his birthday…his 76th, we had come a long way. Straddling careers in advertising, often freelancing together,doing some landmark work. I had left JJ in 1967 to become a struggling copywriter because if I couldn’t be as good a visualizer as Viru, it was better to be at least a better copywriter. Then I changed gear and started moonlighting as a screenwriter in Bollywood. But the friendship continued.

What haunts me now are not the memories of 52 years of our friendship but Viru’s absence from all the future events that are going to happen in my life. He won’t be there for them. The movies and television shows I am going to write, my family functions like weddings and birthdays, his frequent phone calls, the reunions of the Class of 1969 of Sir.J.J.Institute of Applied Arts, meals at each other’s house, gossip, laughter, pranks, pulling legs, jokes, parties that he loved, they are all going to be without Viru because by taking away Viru, death has taken away the future. Perhaps the future will be there one way or other because nothing stops for anybody, but it won’t be the same without Viru.

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