If the measure of a man is how many lives he has touched during his lifetime, then the real significance of advertising guru and theatre maven Alyque Padamsee, who passed away at the age of 90, this Saturday morning, after a long illness, was palpable for all to see as he took his final curtain at the overflowing Worli electric crematorium, on Sunday.

Because here, in concentric circles, was the cast of characters who told the tale of Padamsee’s extraordinarily, influential and exuberant life, quite vividly.

Starting with members of his family, his children — eldest daughter, theatre producer Raell Padamsee; son, theatre director Quasar Padamsee, and his youngest child, actress Shahzan Padamsee — to his former partner, actress and erstwhile newsreader Dolly Thakore and his musician-actress-wife Sharon Prabhakar; his colleagues from his advertising days, many of whom he had employed and mentored, when they themselves had been callow youth, now tigers in their fields; his innumerable associates from his long and rich life in theatre, and those he had worked with during his activist days, following the aftermath of the Mumbai riots when he’d become a strong voice for secularism and tolerance, they were all there, along with the invisible multitudes of Indian consumers, in whose lives he had played an insidious part, as he got them to buy the hundreds of brands that he’d created, from shampoos to shoe polish and washing powders.

They were all there to bid farewell, to pay homage, to share memories, and to mourn the passing of one of Mumbai’s tallest sons.

If Jinx Akerkar, 87, could whisper, “I did one of my first plays with him. It was Edward Albee’s, ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’. I played Martha to his George and we called each other by those names for the rest of our lives”; there was also funny man Kunal Vijaykar, asking, “But how can God take away a man, who was God himself?” alluding to the moniker, the flamboyant showman who’d helmed, what had once been India’s premier ad agency, Lintas, had been bequeathed by fellow ad man Mohamad Khan.

The innumerable and astonishingly diverse facets of Padamsee’s life were on full display as the man himself lay resplendent as an emperor, from one of his many larger-than-life productions for people to pay their final tributes to.

And as expected, there was a sense of rambunctiousness and vitality so typical of Padamsee’s famous rehearsals, especially his big musical productions like Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, even as mourners milled around, chatted loudly amongst themselves, broke down occasionally or just stood in shock and grief, trying to come to terms with the passing of someone who appeared to be invincible and even, immortal for so long.

Here was film producer Ronnie Screwvala, whose initiation into English theatre could have, perhaps, been inspired by that of his peer; Tara Sharma, whose father, the late Partap Sharma, actor and voice of a hundred advertising films of yore, must have worked closely with the advertising leader. We spotted theatre’s First Lady Vijaya Mehta, her head covered respectfully, sitting silently, no doubt her thoughts going over the many plays the veterans had worked on together, even as we saw a tear fall from Gerson Da Cunha’s eye, as he sat erect and silent, remembering his friend and colleague of many decades. Others at the poignant occasion were some of Mumbai’s famous and familiar faces: Neera and Shyam Benegal, Saryu Doshi, Zafar Hai, Farzana Contractor, actor Boman Irani, choreographer Salome Roy Kapur along with son-producer Siddharth Roy Kapur, Cyrus Broacha, theatre and ad-man Rahul da Cunha, his mother, the author Nisha Da Cunha, thespian Sabira Merchant, who’d starred in Padamsee’s ‘Street Car named Desire’, and Dalip Tahil, who’d made such a memorable Peron in his blockbuster musical, Evita. They were all there, in respect, in memory, in sadness and salutations.

“Everyone present here was part of his life,” said Dolly Thakore, when we’d gone up to her to condole her. “Do you know he had touched everyone’s life here in some way or the other,” she’d said.

And then, it was time to bid the emperor his final goodbye. And what better way than for son Quasar to read out, what he called was his father’s favourite couplet, from Othello, which Padamsee had staged in the 90s with Kabir Bedi playing the lead.

Fitting, too, that after his body was consigned to the electric crematorium, with little fuss and no religious rituals, a round of spontaneous applause had broken out amongst his many admirers and friends who lined the hallway.

This was Alyque Padamsee after all. And he deserved nothing less than a standing ovation.

First Published: Nov 19, 2018 00:31 IST

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