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Being Alyque Padamsee: India's dream merchant

TimePublished on Sun, Aug 03, 2008 at 14:41, Updated on Sun, Aug 03, 2008 at 21:02 in Lifestyle section

THE MAVERICK: Padamsee has publicly offered opinions on everything under the sun.

THE MAVERICK: Padamsee has publicly offered opinions on everything under the sun.

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Aylque Padamsee has designed images that are part of a collective consciousness. India's best-known dream merchant, Padamsee has designed brands, advised governments, led the English theatre movement , acted in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, and offered opinions on everything under the sun. But Alyque Padamsee's life is still work in progress.

Anuradha SenGupta: Alyque Padamsee, the world knows you as legendary ad man, who contributed to creating a whole bunch of brands we are familiar with on a day-to-day basis. We know you as a theatre director and actor, we know you as a man who has a view on everything, but how would you describe yourself?

Alyque Padamsee: You know I was very fortunate. I think the greatest thing that God gives us the gift, and though I am an agnostic, I do believe there is a supreme being, that if you born into a family which gives you a roof over your head, three meals a day, and education, it is the greatest gift in the world and a lot of people like us, in what we call in the ad world, PLU (people like us) forget that. I have never forgotten that.

Every morning when I get up, I say thank you, what a wonderful day, I may have a toothache, I may have fever. I may be feeling very lazy because of disco till 4 am and so on, but when I get up I always say, thank you, and I am basically, I think in love with life. I just love life. I won't be sorrowful to go but I would say damn it, couple of more years please!! And I know I will not get it but what the heck.

Anuradha SenGupta: So to describe Alyque Padamsee, you would say you are someone who is in love with life.

Alyque Padamsee: Yes, I am in love with life and I am also in love with many women along my life, but that apart I don't mean in that love ness.

Anuradha SenGupta: You are pre-empting me. You have to talk about all the women in your life but before that, you have written your book, Double Life, your autobiograhy, it is really unusual to know that as a child you were actually tongue tied and today your biggest calling card is the fact that you are an effective communicator

Alyque Padamsee: One and only one reason, I discovered the theatre and it is amazing. Once you go on a stage and an audience and you have to be good. If you are good, it happened to be in the debating society, where I never, I was very very shy and I was very thin boy. They used to call me 'Cardboard Sando" I was very thin. They said if you look at Alyque from sideways, you can’t see him. I was that thin. I was six feet and very very thin. I was a very shy boy. I used to hide behind this big monstrous fellow in the debating society, hoping that the teacher would not notice me and call me. One day this wretched fellow fell ill, he did not come to the debating society, so I was there all alone and exposed. The professor called me out "Padamsee, I would like you to talk on the subject which is non-violence and I got a thought in my head. Someone had told me a joke two days ago and I said well (pretends to stutter) I would just like to say that the greatest violinist in the world is Yasha Heifetz and the greatest non violinist in the world is Mahatma Gandhi and they all roared with laughter, clapped, they thought it was very funny

Anuradha SenGupta: That is when the barrier broke?

Alyque Padamsee: Bomb! And I can tell you, I can tell the audience that all you need is springboard once only and then shyness disappears. We are all the time performing. We do not realize it. When we are speaking to a sabziwala, as Lalita (the protagonist for Rin detergent). Aha, Theek se tolo!! where do we get those intonation from. It is in us. It is when we get before an audience, we get this hinglish that I learned in college, "goblified," but actually I try and put people in touch with the real you which is there, your emotional center you may say. When I played Mohammed Ali Jinnah that was not performing, That was me being, what I thought, might be a wrong interpretation, was Mohammed Ali Jinnah. I grew up in a theatre family. To me Shakespeare was a very natural language and even till today, I still do little performances of Shakespeare, like Shylock, one of my favourite characters, who when Antonio says, Hey Shylock I want three thousand ducats and Shylock, the moneylender says, Signior Antonio, many a times in the rialto, you have rated me about my moneys and my usances…. but still I have borne it with patient shrug of sufferance, the badge of all our tribe, you call me misbeliever cut throat dog and spit upon my Jewish gabardine and all for use of that which is my own, now you come to me and you say, Shylock we would have moneys". So you see what happens is an actor becomes the role. He does not play the role. Actors who play the roles are never good actors.

Anuradha SenGupta: Theatre, advertising, how come you did not get into film making?

Alyque Padamsee: That is one thing I do regret. I was in my 20s my long-term vision, my hero was Orson and I loved the way he moved from theatre to cinema. He was a great theatre director, and I also thought by the age of 30, I am making a resolution, I am going to move to directing films. My first film, which took me two years to write. I got the rights from Girish Karnard to Tuglak, which I had done on the stage with Kabir Bedi but then I had a backer, Blaze Films, and had a script, Samazadi, Javed Siddique, worked on the script with me for about 2 years, superscript, but they said, hey your budget would be now running into crores so we would need a big star to be able to raise that money. So, I said okay. I am going to ask Amitabh Bachchan, he was at the height of his popular career, as the angry young man.

Anuradha SenGupta: And he said no?

Alyque Padamsee: No, I went to Bangalore. He was shooting for Coolie at that time. I sat with him one late evening after the shooting, and he gave me the very Amitabh, taciturn yes Alyque, very interesting, let me just think about it. I said okay Amitabh and I said this is your one chance to make a film for which you will be remembered for every, because Tuglak is a great, great story. It is not dishum-dishum. There is dishum-dishum but with such a lot of more meaning. I went back to Bombay, couple of weeks later Amitabh met with an accident on (the seta of)Coolie and almost died. After he recovered, I again went to him and I said what about Tuglak, and he said well, to tell you the truth, I have lost a lot on this terrible illness and my sources of Hindi film have dried up and now I cannot take the risk of doing an "art film" I have to go back to the dishum-dishum angry young man, and I am sorry to say no.

Anuradha SenGupta: There were two clear points in time when you wanted to make a film and you had a story you wanted to tell. It did not materialise because of circumstances. I that a big regret?

Alyque Padamsee: That is a big regret and at the same time to be honest with you i would be very scared. You know in theatre you rehearse for 3 months. In a film, everyday of shooting is costing you lakhs of rupees. I was a little terrified of the fact that I would be trapped on celluloid and I could never change it. Where as in my place you can change it. And Sharon would say, Oh darling will you stop it!

Anuradha SenGupta: You have talked about your love for life, your love for women, we have to talk about women and why you cannot have lasting relationships with them.?

Alyque Padamsee: I think it is all to do with theatre. The excitement of falling in love with a play, I did Macbeth 2 years ago, and I was just in love with it. Then I started on Unspoken Dialogue, which is a very interesting play on people speaking from their heart based on a true story and then I fell out of love with Macbeth and I fell in love with Unspoken Dialogue. I have this tendency to fall in love, to be totally obsessed. So like that, I suppose, I would say that, I do not know, marriage is a strange invention of man. I do not think it is an invention of god.

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