Besides helming the agency he built for decades, Padamsee—who made his theatre debut at age seven in Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’ directed by his eldest brother Sultan Bobby Padamsee—went on to directed several lavishly-mounted drama productions including ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘Evita’ and ‘Tughlaq’. Awarded the Padma Shri in 2000 for his contribution to the arts and later the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, he leaves a legacy that has prompted Twitter farewells from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who acknowledged the legend as a “wonderful communicator”, President Ram Nath Kovind to various actors, including Manisha Koirala.
“He was unwell and ailing for a while and passed away at 5.30am at Reliance Foundation Hospital,” said daughter Raell Padamsee’s team in an official statement. He will be cremated in Worli at 11am on Sunday.
“Flair, flamboyance and swagger” is what Padamsee brought to the world of advertising, says Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and chief creative officer, Ogilvy South Asia, who entered the ad industry at a time when Padamsee was at the top. “Interactions in my formative years were minimal but he was always complimentary of my work,” says Pandey. “He showed no signs of ageing in his demeanour,” says Pandey, adding that there was a 27-year age gap between them. “He played 90 years and he played them well,” he says about the “rockstar”.
Adman and playwright Rahul DaCunha says he will remember Padamsee as a genuine dude. “The world won’t be able to create someone like that again because the world has changed,” says DaCunha who worked with Padamsee in advertising in the mid-’80s and recalls the veteran’s firm belief that “people in advertising must do theatre”. He, in fact, learnt his lesson in voice projection from the veteran when he had pitched a campaign idea to Bajaj Group chairman Rahul Bajaj who was seated at the other end of the table. “I happened to be sitting next to Alyque Padamsee and at the end of the presentation, he said to me, ‘Rahul, I can’t hear you. How will the client?’” says DaCunha, who as someone who juggles advertising and theatre himself calls Padamsee a “great influence”.
Adman, lyricist and CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi says in his two decades in advertising, he never thought Alyque could retire. “The most zinda dil adman I’ve ever come across. As a young new advertising professional from a small town, it was very special when he would call me to appreciate my work. He was a lesson. Always plugged into current affairs, wanting to constantly know what consumers were thinking, very sound logic. He made his characters like Lalitaji metaphorical, which made them a part of research papers and iconic. Even in the realm of charming creativity, he never ran away from reality,” he says.
Theatre personality Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal recalls Padamsee coming to see her production ‘The Vagina Monologues’ seven times and teasing her about the bold content, saying, “You better get a good team of lawyers and keep a police van ready.”
Memories of Padamsee walking into a lift shouting at his secretary, “Where am I going, whom am I seeing?” still crack up old-timers at Lintas. K V Sridhar aka Pops, a former Lintas employee who joined in 1992, has not only seen Padamsee preside over meetings from atop his exercise cycle in his office room but also watched his frazzled Anglo-Indian secretary return from his last-minute, in-a-moving-car meetings without shoes. “He would ask her to accompany him in his car to meetings to save time and as soon as he thought the conversation was over, he would stop the car and ask her to get off,” says Sridhar. “Since the secretary would wear heels, which she would remove in office, she would enter the car without shoes. She wouldn’t even have time to carry her wallet and would wonder how to return from Marine Drive,” he says.
A stickler for discipline, Padamsee was not above making his team conduct recces of conference rooms before client meetings, demanding details on everything from the number of plug points in the room to the height of the ceiling. “He was a tall man so he didn’t want his head to hit the ceiling during a presentation,” says Sridhar, who joined Lintas with K S Chakravarthy aka Chax and recalls being stumped when handed a “joint first paycheck and asked to split it between the two” by Padamsee.
(With inputs from Mohua Das & Shobita Dhar)