Sudhir Deokar, who led the creative team at HTA (now JWT) Mumbai, passed away last week. He died of a heart ailment and was 76 years old. Deokar joined JWT in the 1940s and was with the agency till he retired in 1998.
In the early 1960s, I was a cub writer, and Sudhir a young tiger. Every day, I watched him roar, bold and resonant on his easel. And, I cowered behind my table wondering what I was doing in a place like this? Tentatively I handed him a line for an Esso advertisement, expecting a growl of disapproval. He looked at it for a moment and with the salivary articulation of well-chewed paan, he said: "Tomorrow." The next morning I glanced at his easel and grew a hundred feet tall. There was my line on his layout, for sure, but barely recognisable even to me. Sudhir had made it resonate beyond the thesaurus.
He did this always. He took lines and gave them roundness, movement, dimension, resulting in halos for copywriters, account directors, clients and their brands. He freed the Air India Maharaja from the croquill's ruthless line and caressed him with that soft roundness. He poured sex appeal into Haryana Breweries' beer barrels, played midwife to both DCM and Wipro Data Products and placed Hamdard on the medical pedestal it deserved. Name any Thompson brand from the early sixties to the Millennium year; Sudhir has gilded it with his brush. He retired as creative chief of the Mumbai office of HTA.
He worked his magic with 6B pencil, croquill, Rotring, Indian ink, water-colours and his sable hair wand, conjuring up caricatures, cartoons, stylised drawings and life-like water colours; his 20-minute layouts often used as artwork. Artwork became works of art, clients having them framed and put up in their offices. His visualisation of human situations on tabletop was photographically perfect. When the final picture was taken in the studio, you might not be able to tell the difference between the photographed picture and the 20-minute wash drawing. Mitter Bedi, Obi, Salian and so many others would marvel at the lens that was Sudhir's eye.
For close to three decades, he gave my work the visual sanctification of his brush, and I feel blessed. I know that many who came before and after me will echo my feelings. He had the greatness and breadth to work with anyone - from trainee to guru. Many of his trainees are gurus now. I look with awe today at a generation that thrives on the digital evacuation of ideas, but I still thrill to the memory of those visual insights shaped by hand and eye by artists like Sudhir. He was loved by all - from the most cussed of executives to the most difficult of clients.
Besides being my creative soul mate, Sudhir became a friend of the family. His passing is a deep gash that my soul will have to bear forever.