Gentleman George: A tribute by Shelton Pinheiro

Shelton Pinheiro is the Executive Creative Director at Stark Communications. He worked with George John on two of his projects

by Shelton Pinheiro
Published - Jul 2, 2019 8:50 AM Updated: Jul 2, 2019 8:50 AM

It was some time in the mid 2000s while working as a copywriter in Kochi that I first heard of George John. In the agency, people then spoke of him in hushed tones. George John, it seemed, was the local boy from Kochi who had broken away and made a name for himself in the world of advertising. Later, I would hear about many of his exploits - about how he turned around dysfunctional agencies, started successful ones and built teams that won everything they pitched for. 


It was 10 years and two agencies later, after I moved into Stark that I had the privilege of actually meeting him. We were planning a shoot in an exquisite home in Kochi that someone said, belonged to a certain George John. As I walked in, I realised that George had quietly settled into Kochi in this beautiful place near the backwaters. During the shoot, we spent so much time talking about books, art and advertising that it seemed like I had known him for a long time. George was unassuming, straightforward and warm - it was difficult to not like him.


We stayed in touch, and later, he assigned Stark to work on two projects that he held very dear: Ragamaya, a resort in a very interesting location in Munnar, and Graceland, retirement homes that were quite unlike the ones seen in Kerala. That gave us the opportunity to spend quite some time with him and listen to his take on these projects, on art and on life itself. I realised that his art collection was quite envied and listened to his stories on the works he commissioned - especially the one about the monochrome painting by Namboothiri.


Both these projects evolved from his deep personal involvement, as his projects always did. The resort happened because he discovered a location that was truly unique and he wanted to share it with the world. The approach to ‘Graceland’ emerged from his disappointment on seeing the state of some of the retirement homes in India. He himself was planning to move into ‘Graceland’ in the course of time. George genuinely wanted his projects to be meaningful for those who chose them. His enthusiasm inspired our work too, and the creatives for both projects won awards. He was happy that he had won awards, as he put it, “even in retirement”. 


I was out of touch with George for a while and yesterday, it was quite a shock to hear of his demise. He had gone, like the gentleman he always was, quietly and gracefully. I thought of his warm, enriching presence and the conversations from the heart. Our world is definitely poorer without him. 

Rest in peace, George.


Shelton Pinheiro is the Executive Creative Director at Stark Communications. He worked with Geroge John on two of his projects

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