Goodbye Alyque, Mentor and Fellow ‘Theatrewallah’
Rahul da Cunha worked at Lintas in Mumbai with Alyque Padamsee.
Rahul da Cunha worked at Lintas in Mumbai with Alyque Padamsee.(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Goodbye Alyque, Mentor and Fellow ‘Theatrewallah’

If Alyque Padamsee ever doubted himself, he never showed it. “That’s acting,” he once told me with a twinkle in his eyes.

If ever there was someone who had full confidence in himself, it was Alyque. He would walk into any room as if he owned it. The great man was a multitasker before the term was coined—I watched him at close quarters for the better half of six years.
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In his pocket he carried many small blank sheets of paper, on which he would furiously write notes. He was indeed, the finest creative manager I’ve ever worked with—he invoked a sense of inspiration to a staff of close to 400 people, not all of whom were necessarily creative peeps.

To handle difficult clients, build big multi-national brands and Indian businesses, deal with foreign bosses, manage several families and still find the time to direct big scale musicals—that takes genius. And Alyque was that, a genius. Not in the way, say, Einstein was, but a genius nonetheless.

I think AP was particularly fond of me because my dad was like his brother, and like him, I straddled two professions: advertising and theatre. From the time I was in college, I knew I was destined to manage my time carefully, traversing two passions. So, when I went to work at Lintas, in February of 1988, Alyque never hesitated to advise me—little life lessons, titbits on ad theory, marketing fundas, theatre wisdom, stuff he’d learnt and wanted to pass on. He truly believed that the two skills were intertwined. Both the ad biz and drama involved addressing people. Both were created to convince target groups. Both involved showmanship. Both involved high levels of creativity.

He believed that people from the theatre were ideally suited for advertising. Theatrewallas were organised, huge on preparation, always on the ball, approached the world with ideas and were always ready for a crisis.
Rahul da Cunha directing actors Boman Irani and Sudhir Joshi in his play<i> I’m Not Bajirao</i>.
Rahul da Cunha directing actors Boman Irani and Sudhir Joshi in his play I’m Not Bajirao.
(Photo Courtesy: Rahul da Cunha)

Alyque was also big on legacy. In 1996, he’d seen a play I’d staged called I’m Not Bajirao (starring Boman Irani). In some ways, this was a production that ushered in the use of Hinglish in Indian English theatre. An unsuspecting audience, nurtured on Anton Chekhov and Arthur Miller, was faced gleefully with an amalgamation of Indian Angrezi, Parsi Gujarati, Marathi and Bambaiya Hindi in this play of mine that ran 11 years. “This is an important part of your legacy, my boy. Significant for the ’90s, the way that my Evita impacted English theatre [in India] in the ’80s. This play of yours will be a significant turning point in our theatre,” he said to me.

Much like him, I’ve always been big on legacy—what will we leave behind for the younger generations? He greatly influenced me in advertising too. For us creative people in the ’80s and ’90s, our training was in writing press ads with clever, attention-seeking headlines and absorbing body copy.

The team behind the Hamara Bajaj campaign.
The team behind the Hamara Bajaj campaign.
(Photo Courtesy: Rahul da Cunha)

"Rahul…” he told me one day, "think film… think in frames... in visuals. Make ad films that entertain people but also emotionally move them.” And thus, I scripted, along with my art director partner Prashant Godbole, our immediate boss Kersey Katrak, and the Hindi writer Jaikrit Rawat, the classic campaign for Bajaj Auto—Hamara Bajaj.

I do think, that much of what modern theatre and contemporary advertising are stemmed from Alyque’s style of thinking, either for or against. Allow me the cliché, but the breed of person that Alyque was woke up each morning wondering how they could change the world.

Goodbye, my mentor and guide. You were a true cool dude.

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