Rating : 9/10
Review by Ankur Sardana
He is the teacher, whose lectures, one wishes, continue forever.
Where most people in life struggle to find the meaning of success in their respective careers, he shines at the pinnacle of the two most exciting ones. Related, but two, double but one.
For a man who has lived and performed storytelling all his life, to write the story of himself could have been daunting, just to live upto the persona he has built for himself. But he does it with great wit and enthusiasm, treating himself like a character from his play and a product that he wants to connect (‘sell’) emotionally with his colleagues and readers (‘students’).
This autobiography is not the tell-all types, this is about how he wants us to perceive him and maybe also, how he wants to perceive himself.
Q. Does your mask ever come off?
A. Well, this is not a mask, this is me. Some people go through life playing roles. I enjoy that. Ask my wife or my daughter, I’m always clowning around, playing roles. Be it the theatre man, the advertising man or in social service. In fact, very often, the person inside is dull and boring. What is interesting are the characters he plays.
Neither is this the linear story, it travels through time and space but remains firm on the fact the every page should give something to the readers – either a story, a quote or something that they should remember about Mr Padamsee, sometimes (just sometimes) bordering on being repetitive.
It’s rare that Karan Thapar is in awe of his guests. This interview was around the book.
His extreme passion for theatre is inspiring, the extent of magic that he created in his productions can be absorbed sip by sip from the book. The most horrible part of theatre is that recordings don’t do justice and are mostly not available (‘ret ke mahal’ as Ranjit Kapoor remarked about shows in theatre). On a lot of googling all I found was this piece of a song from one of his musicals ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.
Though, this is no emotional account by any means, it is written with a lot of Empathy, Humour and Compassion, qualities that filters leaders from icons, and that is reflected every now and then in the book.
“When you make a fool of yourself, only your sense of humour can save you from drowning in self-pity”
or when he is being emotional, yet so real about his fatherhood.
“Perhaps if I had spent less time with these characters and more time with my own children, then I probably would have been more of a good father than a godfather. Why does a man do that ? I’ve often asked myself this question. And I think that somehow or the other, because of daily living with your children, they become more of a habit and less of a challenge and adventure.
Strong mothers usually produce strong sons. But strong fathers often create weaklings.”
This particular interview (below) is great (only if you ignore the doped interviewer and the fake cameraman). It shows us Alyque’s home, there are posters of his plays, collection of books and the beautiful interiors. In the interview towards the end, his daughter Raell, who is an extremely successful theatre veteran herself (some parallel to Naseeruddin Shah’s Heeba, though Heeba Shah is a prolific actor and Raell dons many hats) sums up her father’s fetish for details and dedication to craft. Raells production – http://aceproductions.biz (look at the .biz)
Though most of the characters he created in advertising are well known, the fact that he was also instrumental in getting Karamchand on national TV was fresh. An article on that.
His recent interviews are mostly about what he’s talked about many times, but still quite watchable. I like this ‘Walk the Talk’, where he leaves Shekhar so inspired by the end.
And he is at his candid best with Shekhar Suman. (two Shekhars who are completely opposite)
Going back to the book, one of my favourites chapters is about Jinnah and Gandhi. One really wishes that he had acted more in films. But then that’s him.
His only theatre performance that is available online is the one below, in which he looks quite frail and loud. Much like other elder thespians beyond their prime. Which also brings in a thought..thespians live long !
On a personal note, it was a privilege to hear him first hand at our convocation and receive my degree from him. It was a dignified, witty, well rehearsed presentation. In a way it was a summary of the book, which has remained one of my all time favourites.
The story of this amazing man, is something that you can read as many times and still learn more.
You can buy it here, and I am sure this is not going out of print for a long long time.
Some articles about him :