Ad guru and theatre personality Alyque Padamsee passed away at the age of 90 in Mumbai on Saturday, 17 November. He is the man who has given us icons like the ‘Liril girl’ and Surf’s conscientious homemaker ‘Lalita ji’. We also have him to thank for giving an ace actor like Boman Irani his acting break.
The Quint got in touch with Boman Irani and actor Kavita Chaudhary who reminisced about their time with Padamsee and the legacy he left behind.
Boman Irani, who is known for his roles in Munna Bhai MBBS and 3 Idiots, was a photographer before he became an actor. He says, “I was around 34 years old and trying to make a name as a photographer. I was working on Shiamak Davar's portfolio and one day he walks into my studio and says, ‘Come let's go and meet Alyque , I have some work with him.’ Actually, in effect, Shiamak was taking me there for an audition. I said, ‘Why are you taking me for an audition?’. He replied, ‘Because I know in your heart you are an actor and this is what you should be doing too.’ I said, ‘Not yet Shiamak...’ to which he responded, 'No, no this is the opportunity; you will remember what I said.’ So we went there and I did a very simple audition.”
"Alyque gave me a very small role in a musical that he was producing called ‘Roshni’ which Shiamak was choreographing. I got noticed in that—the reviews were fine—and a lot of directors came up to me and offered me different roles. So, it was a start of a career in theatre." - Boman Irani, Actor
He goes on to acknowledge the roles that Davar and Padamsee played in getting him into acting.
"I have Shiamak and Alyque to thank. The small but very, very important three-and-a-half minute cameo in which he cast me caught the eye of lot of people. That was the start of my acting career in many ways." - Boman Irani
Actor Kavita Chaudhary may now be known for her role in the Doordarshan series Udaan but became a household name thanks to Alyque Padamsee’s famous advertisement for Surf in which she portrayed the role of homemaker Lalita ji. He had once said, in an interview with Bollywood Hungama, that the character was based on his mother who had a specific sing-song way of talking.
When The Quint spoke to Kavita Chaudhary, she told us that the Surf ad was not the first time she had worked with Padamsee. She had previously acted in a play called Pagal Khana which was directed by him. By the time he began to work on the ad, he had lost her number. After auditioning several women for the role of Lalita ji, he told his team to track Chaudhary down. The most memorable thing according to the actor, however, was that she was not cast for her appearance or how similar she was to the character.
"He told his team that I would be able to get the tone of the character. The casting was not on appearance but on understanding. I was very different from Lalita ji and even in ‘Pagal Khana’ I had played a very, very different character. Lalita ji was this no-nonsense [character] which was not my personality but he just felt that I might be able to understand the tone of it. He relied on the actor’s understanding. " - Kavita Chaudhary, Actor
The character became so famous that people used to write to her with their problems because they used to trust Lalita ji’s judgement. Padamsee would often quip that in the ’80s, she was the second most popular woman in India after Indira Gandhi.
Recalling the ad man’s most defining features, the actor says,
"He looked the same. What he looked like when you first met him... after years he looked the same. His loud, ringing voice was another distinct feature of his. " - Kavita Chaudhary
Chaudhary attributes his success to his flexiblity. She recalls that he would become a mentor and you could call him anytime to discuss any project you were working on.
"When ‘Udaan’ came on air he made me the director the Surf ads featuring Lalita ji. The last few ones were directed by me. He was very flexible and that’s why he could go places. " - Kavita Chaudhary, Actor
Boman Irani says he has learnt a lot from Padamsee when it came to acting and that he uses those skills till date.
" A lot of voice trainers will tell you about paratone and breathing and how to use the diaphragm... Alyque had a very simple technique when using the voice. He said, ‘All this breathing and all that is fine, but if your mouth is not alive and your lips aren’t alive then all your breathing will be of no use if you have lazy lips.’ So lazy lips is something I always use even today when I feel a lack of energy. Lazy lips make you mumble and lose energy. That’s something that Alyque has taught me which I have applied all my life." - Boman Irani
When asked about his favourite Alyque Padamsee ad, Boman promptly replies,
"We all remember his Surf ad with Lalita ji. He had a great knack of picking up talent. He knew who would deliver for him. That’s a talent. " - Boman Irani . Read more on Celebrities by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand Deaths‘Badhaai Ho’ Box Office: Ayushmann Film Clocks Rs 200 Cr Worldwide . Read more on Celebrities by The Quint.