Kiran Nagarkar, my boss

Published: Sep 08, 2019, 05:47 IST | Rahul da Cunha

This was 1986, Mumbai was called Bombay, and the office was in a building next to Churchgate station

Kiran Nagarkar, my boss
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rahul da CunhaKiran Nagarkar was my first boss. (Yup, Shri Nagarkar was an ad man). My uncle and mentor, Kersy Katrak, gave me a break in an advertising agency he'd started called Fulcrum. Kersy had also hired the legendary Kiran Nagarkar-Arun Kolhatkar copywriter-art director duo, two of his 'whiz-kids' from the 1970s MCM days. (MCM was 'Mad Men' without the booze. 'Fulcrum' was the supergroup that emerged from there.) This was 1986, Mumbai was called Bombay, and the office was in a building next to Churchgate station.

So, on that first day at work, my Remington typewriter and I sat opposite Kiran, while he initiated me into the 'copy' faith. I wasn't intimidated—Kiran was friendly, and funny and warned me against using puns in advertising.

"Use them only when you're sure it's the best option, and then it had better be very clever," he advised.

Later that afternoon, Kersey said to me, "Rahul, dikra, you will have three bosses, Kiran, Arun and me. Best of luck." I swear a Charles Sobhraj smile crossed his lips.

So there it was. My writing was to be whetted by these three legends.

Kiran, was the first port of call—if he liked the writing, Arun would then take a 'dekko'. And if these two fine gentlemen, 'bought' my work, it would make to the final round.

Life was tough, very little of my work was making it out of the door to the client—but there were nuggets of gold, floating in the air like confetti. That's the wondrous thing about first hand vs bookish knowledge—when does the sub-conscious mind pick it up, and process it into real learning—so that it stays forever embedded in one's brain.
"Polish your copy, till it shines," Kersey said. "Write like you're talking to one person," Kiran emphasised.

Still, in that first month, March of 1986, it was shattering. Draft after draft, getting bounced, I wondered if I'd ever get an ad released.

And so, it was one afternoon that Prashant Godbole (my partner for the next 10 years, whom I met at Fulcrum) saw my plight, and took me drinking to a beer bar opposite Eros Cinema—to drown my sorrows and give me one life lesson.

"It'll get better," he said reassuringly.

And it did. Over the next year, I began to understand Kiran-Arun (they were always referred to as one person).

They were these two 'inti' (short for intellectual) guys, writing deep books and meaningful poetry with strong political leanings, doing advertising to pay the bills. But boy did those other influences and interests affect their ad perspectives—Arun's graphic brilliance, his command over verse, Kiran was a playwright, already a novelist, writing in English and Marathi. I remember thinking, "There's some 'intense sh**' going around in this agency."

My dream was to be that perfect team with Prashant, like Kiran-Arun, where one plus one equalled three.

Kiran Nagarkar was a 'deep' dude, with the lightest possible chuckle.

Rest well, boss.

Rahul daCunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at

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