Remembering the genius of Alyque Padamsee with the best advertisement of his life

Alyque Padamsee ( file picture)


How the father of modern advertising, Alyque Padamsee advertised for his own debut feature

Alyque Padamsee - the father of modern advertising, the man behind Surf’s Lalitaji, Hamara Bajaj and Liril girl, passed away in Mumbai yesterday. An eminent theatre personality as well, Alyque Padamsee was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London, he showed his remarkable brilliance in theater productions like MAN OF LA MANCHA, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, DEATH OF A SALESMAN. However the genius of Alyque Padamsee in cinema was restricted to his debut in Richard Attenborough’s masterpiece GANDHI where he played the role of Jinnah. An ad man will always be an ad man, here we pay tribute to the legacy of the genius of Alyque Padamsee with the most interesting advertisement during his career, during the making of GANDHI (1982).

The ad guru Padamsee in his autobiography A DOUBLE LIFE (Penguin India, 2000), recalls the experience of his on screen debut as Muhammad Ali Jinnah in GANDHI ( The Richard Attenborough’s masterpiece won eight Oscars).

Richard Attenborough met Alyque Padamsee at a party, and was very impressed by the ad guru’s persona. “Well, Jinnah was an autocratic man. And I see in you all the same signs,” Padamsee quotes Attenborough in his book, “you are also tall and slim, which is what Jinnah was, and you have this air of being able to command people. You raise your eyebrow and people immediately get nervous. Which is what Jinnah was known for.”

Alyque Padamsee got the role of the man that Indians normally don,t like, Attenborough was right, Padamsee brought that unmatched grace and dignity to the self centered character of Jinnah.

The ad guru Padamsee recalls how the expertise of Attenborough helped him in nailing his first stint with camera for the silver screen. Padamsee did three takes to get the required perfection. The ad guru recalls in his book, the first was too theatrical, the second too subdued. Focus on the eyes and not on bodily movements, Attenborough advised Padamsee: “Film actors act with their eyes”. Needless to add, Padamsee hit the bull’s eye in the third take.

And then came “the most successful ad” of his career, Padamsee recalls the experience in his book. Padamsee shot for a total of seven weekends, since he was working the rest of the days, Attenborough requested Padamsee to write the copy for a call for extras for the sequence of Gandhi’s funeral procession at Rajpath in Delhi. The idea was to invite all of Delhi to appear as members of the procession.

“The ad I worked on was released in Hindustan Times on 30 January 1981 and it simply said, ‘On 31 January, history will be re-created. Will you be there?’” Padamsee writes. “When we got to the location in the morning, there were hardly about five people who had responded to the ad. Then ten people came. Then five hundred. Then five thousand. And eventually the whole of Rajpath was full. Attenborough shot for the entire day with about eight cameras and he provided all those who turned up with packed lunches. No one got paid, of course. But the movie shot of thousands and thousands of people on Rajpath is awesome.”

After the shoot was completed, Padamsee asked Attenborough if he could keep the six suits that had been tailored for him for the shoot. The request was turned down since the suits had to be returned to the costume supplier, but Attenborough did give Padamsee the prop of the monocle worn by his character. It cost 10 pounds, the budget-conscious director reminded Padamsee. “It’s one of my heirlooms which will be passed on in my family, I hope, for generations,” Padamsee writes.

The genius Alyque Padamsee passed away yesterday, November 17 2018 at the age of 90, survived by his two daughters Raell Padamsee (theatre personality), actress Shazahn Padamsee and son Quasar Thakore Padamsee ( theatre actor and director). The father of modern advertising, Alyque Padamsee has left a legacy which will be passed to generations after generations, like the prop of the monocle worn in GANDHI, Lalitaji, the Lyril girl, the muscleman of MRF and son on…

RIP Alyque Padamsee, we wish eternal peace for the departed soul.