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Updated on: 04 July,2021 06:50 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rahul da Cunha |

“Happy happy budday, Bhaijaan,” the birthday wish had been.


Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rahul da CunhaIt was my birthday last Thursday; many people were kind with their wishes, especially on Facebook, and the answering of messages took me a while, almost a week. The last person I thanked, belatedly, was a friend of 30 years.

“Happy happy budday, Bhaijaan,” the birthday wish had been. 

“Little brother, chief, bro, mate, old friend, sorry for the late reply,” I messaged Raj Kaushal back, knowing he’d forgive me for the delay. But as I was about to exit Facebook, the news was filtering in. It faced me as one of life’s spookiest realities, a Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not moment that Raj had passed away in the early hours of that same morning.

If ever guilt and grief had a meeting point, the twain had met.

I first met the 18-year-old Raj, when he was a cub copywriter at Contract Advertising. Prashant Godbole and I had joined as a creative team in 1991. That first morning, Raj bounced into our cabin, “Welcome to Contract,”  he said, warmly. “I believe I will be working under you, I’m looking forward,” he said, as he jack-in-the-boxed down  in the chair in front of me, goo goo eyes staring expectantly up at me, his wavy hair, plopping in front of his face. We became good friends, inspite of the ten-year age gap. Even in that 1991-1993 period, when I’d edit his copy, or we’d brainstorm TV scripts for Philips Audio, or Shoppers Stop, I recognised in him a keen sense of cinema—very few copywriters had that gift in the ’90s, so weaned were we in print advertising.

When I left Contract, he organised a farewell card for me, with a poem he’d written that included all the plays I’d directed till then, it read…
“‘Though the Subject isn’t Roses
We’re truly Nuts about you
But since you’re daCunha Bound
Our world is going Topsy Turvy
So Rahul Sahib
This is the last of our Love Letters
Farewell O Tiger of our Congo”
Raj’s next stop was to assist the great late director Mukul Anand, where he learnt his technical craft.

I do believe being an art director or copywriter, trains you well in becoming a better advertising filmmaker—you don’t begin with the misnomer that every TV commercial is a 30-second feature film. You don’t rave and rant and crib and prima donna-ify when the client asks for changes.

It’s not your masterpiece feature, you’re selling a brand finally. 

It’s that innate quality in Raj that made him a fine maker of TV ads—he knew how to tell that brand story in 30-40 seconds. And he told it, I believe 800 times, over the next ten odd years.

As a person, Raj had a quality, very rare these days, he made every conversation about you, you were the focus. Raj took the ‘I’ out of the interpersonal equation. He never had a negative thought in his head.

I thought long and hard about Mandira and him adopting their second child, something they’d decided a while back—my heart goes out to Mandira and Vir, but to little Tara, confused about her destiny, to then be adopted by one of the kindest men ever, only to lose him months later. 

Raj Kaushal had a smile that never faded.

“Don’t you get hassled, depressed, ever?” I once asked him.

“Of course I do,” he answered, the smile firmly in place.

That a heart attack should end the life of a man with the biggest heart.

Rest well, sweet Raj. A guy like you comes along, only kabhi kabhi.

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

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