Some people change us in many ways. Having known them, or having met them, has a life-long impact on us. Arun Kolatkar has been one such - a creative genius, a poet, quirky, CAG Hall of Fame. The more I discovered about him, the more I was awe-struck. To the young readers, long ago Kersy Katrak created a phenomenon in the field of advertising called MCM. Arun was one of the pillars of that agency. Reminiscing about him, I go back to different points of time in those ten years I met him.
In conversation with Dilip Chitre
Recalling his association with Arun, Dilip Chitre once told me, “Not in his death, but my biggest loss would have been had I not known him at all.” Adding further that, “When he (Arun) learnt he had very little time at his end, he devoted it all to complete and compile all his pending/ unfinished work.”
A friend of Prakash Bandekar
Prakash, a maverick creative person himself, was my first Creative Director; and often talked about Arun Kolatkar, the Mumbai of 50s, 60s, 70s, the advertising industry then. An irreverent person himself, I always sensed some reverence, affection, kind of nostalgia in Prakash’s tone whenever he spoke about Arun.
Was it name-dropping? No. But it had an effect…
I had newly joined an agency in Mumbai. A very seasoned, highly accomplished, 'CAG award-winner for years', Chief Art Director also used to work there. Once he asked me a bit disdainfully, if I knew anyone in the industry. When he learnt that, as a practice, I showed my portfolio to Arun Kolatkar once every year; he melted like anything and touched his ears and adjusting the flow of a window AC in his direction said, “What a name to hear just at the beginning of the day! At JJ School, we used nudge one another - there goes Arun Kolatkar!”
A ride to remember …
“We will take a taxi to Lower Parel”, Arun said to me. As we emerged on Prabha Devi main road from his home, a car stopped by. “Going to town?” asked the man inside. “I will drop you at Mahalaxmi!” this gentleman said to Arun after learning we were on our way to LP. Inside the car, I realised, the man was none other than one of the top guys of the ad industry then. Even after decades of retirement, Arun enjoyed such love and respect!
My work and its worst critic…
Every year, for years, I used to meet him, and show my work. Religiously. “Your satires are fresh, write more and often. The ad/ copy is average. These (pointing to few) have some spark.” He would tell me. This went on for years. He would point out what all were promising.
“There are seven to eight buildings in Prabha Devi that have a similar sounding name as this one.” Certainly I was not encouraged to hear that as I took back the envelope I was carrying. “But all the buildings are in the vicinity, so you can try.” Luckily I didn’t have to struggle much; the second building in my search ops was where this man lived.
House on the ground floor, a bright old man opened the door. As I handed him the envelope, he read it sitting on the stairs. A beautiful, frail lady joined in and sat next to him. Handing over the letter to her, he said to her, pointing to me, “He is Prakash’s friend.” Prakash Bandekar was my creative director in Ahmedabad. And, that was my first encounter with Arun Kolatkar.
The regret… Nai Dunia
When I came to know of the demise of Arun, I met Abhay ji at Nai Dunia, Indore with an idea to pen a tribute. That was the era when Nai Dunia was a reference point in Hindi journalism. He readily agreed to give space. I regret that owing to some pressing work, I had to rush out of town, and couldn’t do it.
Looking at the work that passed the muster with Arun, I can only say that he preferred ideas that were simple not clever. He preferred a message that was 'direct' over the one which was 'creative'. He believed in ads that addressed a need or highlighted a feature clearly. His critical evaluation aside, what I cherish the most is he insisting me to pursue writing satires.