The guru you called by first name

Updated: Nov 18, 2018, 08:46 IST | Rahul Da Cunha

They had wives, kids, lives, but you felt what really drove them was creating the next big idea, creating something for the wider good, not just for themselves

Rahul daCunhaThere was an old Bombay and there is a new Mumbai. A significant part of that old Bombay died when Charles Correa passed away; Alyque Padamsee's death is one more nail in that coffin. These are men who strode over our metro like colossuses. They had wives, kids, lives, but you felt what really drove them was creating the next big idea, creating something for the wider good, not just for themselves.

What can one say about Alyque Padamsee? I hesitate to use the words 'great man' or 'genius' or 'guru' because they're so overused, but he was definitely a key influence for me, a 100 per cent teacher. Often in tough situations like today, both in advertising and theatre, I still ask myself, "What would Alyque have done?", and invariably I find a solution. That makes him pretty damn special for me.

The friendship of the daCunhas and the Padamsees can be traced back to the St Xavier's College dramatic club of the 1940s. But, for me, he was my Lintas leader, from 1987 through to 1992. I had two bosses then, Kersy Katrak, my creative director, and Alyque, overall head of the agency. This was a time when, he successfully did two crucial things:

1. He established Lintas as not just being an in-house Hindustan Unilever set up, but an all-service advertising agency that attracted accounts from across the country.
2. He gave Lintas a creative reputation. For this, he hired Katrak, who in turn hired a bunch of creative peeps, of which my art director partner Prashant Godbole and I were a part.

And we learnt much, about strategy, honing our creative skills, selling to clients ("Go out there and sell your own work. Clients trust creative people").
There's no doubt that he led Lintas at its most golden time - he led inspirationally, he built systems, he built brands, and he insisted that everyone, just everyone, called him Alyque.

Alyque didn't just believe in ads being a union of headline, visual and body copy - he believed in the big idea. He also believed that advertising and theatre were linked - the two professions fed off each other. He respected and encouraged people who did both.

The things he told me that I'll never forget to this day:
1. God is in the detail, remember that in everything you do.
2. Figure out your eating, because "Rahul, you need the energy to balance two professions, not an easy task over the next 50 years."
3. "Maximise every second, my boy."
4. "Very clearly demarcate areas of responsibility between your father and you". This was when I joined, daCunha Communications. "You don't want to have a falling out with Sylvie [Sylvester daCunha], right, you're both headstrong people, if you don't figure that out, boy, you two are sunk".

5. He told me to always live my life at the intersection of advertising and theatre. So, tonight, as I head to St Andrews Auditorium for a show of my musical, #SingIndiaSing, I'm thinking of him. We will be dedicating the performance to him. He did, after all, pave the way for the musical in India by creating Jesus Christ Superstar in 1974, Evita in the '80s and a host of others when technology was non-existent and perhaps ideas were everything. Alyque Padamsee lived his life larger than life. In death he's as large as life. The legacy is huge. Thank you.

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