Alyque Padamsee: A man of many parts
Chintamani Rao, Strategic Marketing and Media Advisor, pays his tribute to Alyque Padamsee on his first death anniversary
18th November. Funeral at the Worli crematorium. As the door shut on the furnace those present broke into an applause.
Applause? What kind of a funeral was this?
It was Alyque Padamsee’s. Who else would have evoked that spontaneous reaction? It wasn’t his funeral: it was his final curtain call, as Dolly Thakore aptly said. Theatre man till the last.
He was not an advertising man who indulged in theatre. He lived and breathed theatre, and advertising to him was live theatre every day. “The art of advertising is really the art of show business,” he said in his autobiography ‘A Double Life’. “In advertising you show off your brand rather than your characters.” Every presentation was a production; every major meeting was a production: detailed and rehearsed, designed to evoke the desired response from the client.
Even a party was a production. Back when Chennai was still Madras and prohibition was for real, we had a client over for dinner. We were in a room at the Chola, just six of us – the client and his wife, Alyque, Bagu Ochane, and my wife and I – and not a drop to drink. But the party went on late into the night, because Alyque kept the conversation going. After the party he asked me, “Did you notice that I focused the whole time on the client’s wife?” I did, but didn’t know what I should say so I mumbled something. “Always make sure your client’s wife has a good evening,” he said. “He will come to your party; that’s part of his job. But if she finds your parties boring she won’t; and then he’ll come reluctantly, if he comes at all, and leave early.”
In a tribute to Alyque on CNBC TV18, the other day, Piyush Pandey was asked what he thought was Alyque’s biggest contribution to advertising. He put his finger on it: “Alyque gave the advertising industry its swagger,” he said.
Alyque is popularly credited with many famous advertising campaigns: among them the Charlie Chaplin films for Cherry Blossom; the Muscleman for MRF; the Lalitaji campaign that turned Surf around; and the iconic film that launched Liril. But the authors of Cherry Charlie were Pranob Ghosh and Rema Ezra; the creator of the MRF Muscleman was Hassan Taj, as Alyque himself often related; of Lalitaji, Usha Bhandarkar was. As for Liril, suffice it to say that he didn’t create that either.
What Alyque did do was to foster an environment of creative ferment in which people did such work; he supported the work and harangued clients, if necessary, until they bought it; and then made each of those campaigns famous as only he could. If they are remembered thirty or forty years later, even if the brands are no longer at their zenith, they are because Alyque promoted them tirelessly.
As Creative Chief of the agency, he nurtured the creative product and guarded it fiercely. Sometimes he rejected a film script that a client had approved and was ready to go into production. (“Tell him Alyque said no.”) And when he did that clients were not upset: they were glad to know Alyque was watching out on their behalf. No piece of work was too small to merit his attention. If he came across anything, however small, that he had loved or hated, you would know he had.
To the world outside Lintas was glamorous, and did everything in style. Inside it was always in a high state of excitement about the work. It was creative in the true sense of the word: whatever you did in Lintas, you had the opportunity and encouragement to, as Apple put it, think different. And Alyque was the star around which the Lintas solar system revolved. But you didn’t resent that, because he earned that position every day.
To the end he was excited. He was interested in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence and the possibilities they hold. Raj Gupta, CEO at Lowe Lintas, summed him up when he wrote what well might be Alyque’s epitaph: “He did not let the memories of his achievements become greater than his dreams.”
I wrote this tribute to Alyque Padamsee days after he passed away on 18th November 2018, but for some reason tucked it away and never had it published. Then on 14th June Lintas had a kind of homecoming, a last visit to its iconic Express Towers office before the agency moved out. That event led to a flood of memories shared among those who were there that day and those who wished they were, many featuring Alyque. And some seven months after I wrote this I resurrected it and shared it with my friends and former colleagues.
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