Friday, October 12, 2012




My life in Ad-ville has largely been inspired by three mentors – Kersey Katrak, Subhash Ghoshal and Frank Simoes. To the irrepressible and unputdownable Katrak, advertising was seduction; a backdrop where boring facts were made to pirouette as dazzling fiction to beguile both heart & head. To Ghoshal, it was a setting where serious academics and MBAs comfortably rubbed shoulders with grungry, edgy, eccentric creatives to produce advertising that worked in the mind and market place. To Simoes, it was style that startles even as it empowers with a gift of laughter and a definite sense that the world is mad! All three, however, were in total agreement over one fact: the need to have or develop a hobby or passion outside their work that was likely to provide fresh, insightful and interesting takes on what they brought to the table.

In year 2012, does this enlightened thought, wash? In an insanely competitive environment, where stress and tension rules, where accounts and people-grabbing is no big deal and means justify the end, can this indulgence really be entertained? For the few of this “engendered species” (on the other side), is it increasingly becoming a problem to ride on two boats, lead a double life with equal passion and purpose?

Double lives in Adland, however, are not entirely a new phenomenon. The great Satyajit Ray started his master-piece Pather Panchali while employed as an Art Director in the Kolkata-based D.J. Keymer, in the fifties. The doyen of film crities, the late Chidananda Das Gupta (also my dad-in-law, guys!) was involved in serious film writing all his life, despite his professional engagements as Servicing Head at D.J. Keymer and later Ad & PR Head of ITC, in the fifties and sixties. In Mumbai, Alyque Padamsee – Adland's Dorian Gray – continues doing his number as celeb director/actor on stage. Earlier, Gerson and Sylvie Dacunha, Kersey Katrak, Roger Pereira, Ronnie Screwvala, Bharat Dabholkar and Sumit Roy did the same, with Avijit Dutt following suit in Dealhi. Today the great Prasoon Joshi and Balki are red-hot in both Adbiz and B-town! So what's the score?

Appropriately the Big Daddy of this movement, Alyque Padamsee, is first off the block. “My life – as my first book indicated – has always pursued twin-passions – Theatre and Advertising. The first a hobby; the second, a profession that allowed me to earn a living and support my family. Over time one helped, collaborated and enriched the other. Theatre taught me teamwork and handling edgy, creative artistes, which was critical in advertising. Advertising enabled me to enter new product/brand experiences every day, as also taught me discipline and conciseness of thought. The mesmeric wilful suspension of disbelief that defines great theatre also influences great advertising, because ultimately, the world in indeed a stage, and we charismatic players,” he tells 4Ps B&M.

35-year-old Minnie Vyas dismisses this 'dramabazi' and brings in her own spin. Articulates the Creative Director of Quantum Communication, “Yeh sub tab chalta tha when the angrezi plays were a fashion statement – not now. Clients are looking for focused content, substance and creatives that are result-specific and make a definite dent on the bottomline. In this dog-eats-dog world, those arty and self-indulgent types have no place unless they leverage it to guarantee the required results. Dramashaama ghar mein karo...!” Strong words? The son and heir of the Dacunha (and Amul) legacy, Rahul, begs to differ. “For me, theatre has always helped my ad life – and vice versa. The passion overlaps. I try and miantain my desire to understand audiences while working in both these media. Would not be able to do one without the other,” says Decunha. Padamsee agres and states that if ever he were to emigrate from his beloved motherland “it would be if and when something like Zia-ul-Haq's infamous diktat of baning all artistic endeavours in Pakistan happens here!” Presently he is busy reviving the Arthur Miller classic, Death of a Salesman.

Young lyricist, composer and singer Abhijit (who, with his partner Ashutosh, has a band, Under the Influence) and also holds down a responsible job (Associate Creative Director, Ogilvy, Mumbai) is up next. He believes that it is clearly about time management. One need not disturb or hijack the other if the love and passion for both is equal. “For me, they are two different zones and music provides me huge enrichment because it is not client-driven, nor does it touch any areas dealing with conventional market-forces. It is totally individualistic and a subjective form of self-expression that is hugely inspirational and satisfying as it leaps from the heart seeking resonance in another,” says Abhijit. Ashish Narendra disagrees. The 45-year-old Creative Consulting believes “it's become a fashion and a fad for kids to sling along a guitar (with their laptops) to increase their hot quotient amongst peers. Sure, it gets attention, but excuse me, you are paid for your damn work, not gaana or nautanki, okay? How does it help?”

So were Katrak, Ghosh and Simoes wrong? If Alyque, Rahul, Abhijit – and especially Prasoon and Balki, as heavy-duty, respected, and successful Bollywood-driven creative professionals and achievers – are anything to go by, one can definitely double-life it successfully, cool n' easy. Only, a word of caution – like in a solid happy relationship or marriage – keep them apart!