By Quaid Najmi,
Mumbai : Alyque J. Padamsee, lent glamour to common products and brought luxury products within the reach of the common masses with his catchy and memorable advertising campaigns.
Considered the Father of Indian Advertising, Padamsee also excelled as a theatre personality and as an actor. He was deeply involved in numerous nationalist and public causes dear to his heart, besides being “a generous but silent philanthropist”.
Padamsee had been ailing for some time and breathed his last at around 5.30 a.m. on Saturday (November 17) at a private hospital. He was 90. His last rites will be performed at the Worli Crematorium on Sunday morning, a close family friend said.
He is survived by two former wives, his third wife having died. and four children, besides other relatives, several of them prominent names in the media, glamour and entertainment industry.
“Saddened by the demise of Alyque Padamsee. A wonderful communicator, his extensive work in the world of advertising will always be remembered. His contribution to theatre was also noteworthy,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tribute.
Alyque was one among eight children of an aristocratic but highly conservative Khoja Muslim family of Jafferbhai and Kulsumbai Padamsee of Gujarat. One of his brothers is the famous modern Indian art painter Akbar Padamsee.
However, though reared in a traditional Muslim environment, when he turned an adult, he renounced his religion and described himself an ‘agnostic’ or non-believer in the existence of God.
Educated at Mumbai’s renowned St. Xaviers College, where he was introduced to a restless crowd of fashionable youngsters, Padamsee developed a highly cosmopolitan outlook and was raring to step out into the world and make his mark.
And what better than the world of entertainment and media to create a quick and lasting impression? He plunged into acting and communicating, soaring to unscaled heights over the years.
During his career in advertising, most notably as the Chief Executive of one of India’s biggest advertising agencies, Lintas India from 1980-1994, Padamsee was involved in nurturing and building over a 100 major products/brands through lasting and memorable campaigns.
Later he became the Regional Coordinator for Lintas South Asia and became the only Indian to be inducted into the International Clio Hall of Fame, regarded as the Oscars of world advertising.
Padamsee attained global fame in brand promotions with memorable and highly successful advertising campaigns – the vivacious Liril girl in a green bikini in a waterfall, the homely Lalitaji in Surf, family oriented Hamara Bajaj, MRF Muscle Man, the Charlie Chaplin-inspired Cherry Blossom, the original Fair & Handsome and the bold Kamasutra Couple among others, which have a recall value even today.
“He had the knack of infusing glamour into ordinary products and simultaneously created a desire for deluxe products among the common masses, creating both superbrands and superconsumers. That was the secret of his success in the complex field of advertising,” said veteran marketing consultant Pradeep Menon.
This, Menon said, suited both – the manufacturers and consumers – with advertising performing the perfect role of the medium at a time when advertising was still limited to dark cinema halls and black-and-white pages of newspapers or magazines, unlike the post-1990s.
A renowned personality in the English theatre scene, Padamsee produced around 70 plays, including notable ones like “Evita”, “Tughlaq”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Death of a Salesman”, “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Broken Images”.
Among his various professional achievements, Padamsee is best remembered for his role as a stern and stubborn Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Richard Attenborough’s multi-Oscar award winner classic, “Gandhi” (1982).
“That was a challenging assignment, enacting a tough character largely reviled in India. He was cast opposite globally-renowned stalwarts like Ben Kingsley who portrayed Gandhiji, Roshan Seth as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Saeed Jaffrey as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. But Padamsee carried off the difficult role with aplomb and is fondly remembered more than 35 years after the film created history,” said veteran film journalist Jivraj Burman.
Padamsee had penned his autobiography, “A Double Life”, which provided some insights into his eventful life in which he played multiple roles.
After a 14-year stint with Lintas India, in 1994, he founded and was the CEO of AP Advertising Pvt. Ltd., specialising in image and communication consultancies for celebrities and brands, both domestic and international.
A close associate and activist, Teesta Setalvad, recalls how she was summoned by him for her story on the Rajasthan drought in 1987.
“Since then, he was there with us all the way. Citizens for Justice and Peace (formed in the wake of the 2002 Gujarat riots), of which he was the trustee, will always cherish his unwavering support through some of our darkest days. His commitment to secularism and social justice will continue to guide our work,” said Setalvad.
Contrary to his flamboyant image, Padamsee was a Good Samaritan who went out of his way to help the suffering masses – whether during the Latur and Gujarat earthquakes, Odisha floods, Uttarakhand disaster, the Gujarat communal carnage and many other public cause, but taking care not to “advertise” his heart of gold, Setalvad revealed.
Padamsee was conferred several honours during his lifetime including the Padma Shri, Advertising Man of The Century and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Tagore Ratna.
Padamsee was married, at various times, to actress and stage personality Pearl Padamsee, renowned media icon Dolly Thakore and pop singer Sharon Prabhakar.
He leaves behind daughers Raell and Shazahn and sons Rahul and Quasar.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)