Remembering Suresh Mullick

By , agencyfaqs! | In | March 11, 2003
Suresh Mullick breathed his last in Delhi on March 10

Five days from now, Suresh Mullick would have celebrated his 63rd birthday. But Fate had other plans for the gentleman who led the creative renaissance at Ogilvy & Mather India. Mullick, a victim of protracted illness that took hold of him over the past year, breathed his last in Delhi, yesterday. He leaves behind his mother and two sisters.

He also leaves behind a legacy of creativity at Ogilvy.

"Back in the 80s, he - along with Mani (SR) Ayer, Ranjan (Kapur) and Roda Mehta - was one of the pillars that made O&M the creative powerhouse it is today," recalls Piyush Pandey, group president & national creative director, O&M India. "He was my predecessor, but I cannot quantify what I have learnt from the man." Pandey should know. For it was Mullick who first plucked Pandey out of servicing and got him to wear the creative cap.

Which, in a way, is ironic, considering Mullick himself made a switchover to creative from servicing, as pointed out by O&M's head, Ranjan Kapur. "I got to know Suresh from the day I joined Bensons (today's Ogilvy)," he says. "Of course, even back then, he was an agency veteran (Mullick spent his entire 35-year career at the agency), but we grew up together in this agency. He was one of my closest friends and my creative partner in the 80s."

Mullick was, in fact, the creative spearhead for the entire agency. Vicks' famous 'Gale mein khich-khich' line, which is in use even today, was Mullick's. He led the creative team that launched watch brand Titan with its mnemonic 'symphony score'. His line, 'Sometimes, Cadbury's can say it better than words,' helped the agency win the big-ticket Cadbury account (which it still handles) way back in 1981. And in partnership with Mani Ayer, Mullick launched Bru in India, in 1969. "Suresh Mullick brought flair to O&M - a tremendous amount of style," Mani Ayer is in full agreement.

But, perhaps, Mullick's biggest achievements as a communicator were his ideas on national integration, best encapsulated in the 'Torch of Freedom', 'Mile sur…' and 'Raag Desh' campaigns. "His national integration campaigns were exceptional," Mani Ayer continues. "The cinematography, the music and the sound of the campaigns are simply brilliant." Pandey, for his part, believes that Mullick "brought in a fantastic era of communication on national integration through these pieces of work".

One of the reasons that made the national integration campaigns such a success was Mullick's ear for music. "He had a lovely voice and a great sense of music," says Kapur. "He was one of those rare individuals who could immediately pick out a wrong note, much to the chagrin of music directors. And the best part is he never trained in music."

He never trained formally in creativity either. It was just that he was a brilliant old-school writer - and a stickler for grammar. "He was a brilliant man… there was an artist in him," Vibha Desai, executive director, O&M India, recalls. "If you ever read his copy or his letters, you would know how beautifully he wrote." But Mullick's strength wasn't limited to writing. And it wasn't limited to writing in English. "He was equally comfortable with the electronic media," says V Ganapathy, business manager, Ogilvy One Worldwide. "And he was one of the few creative people in Indian advertising at that time to think of ideas in the vernacular."

A complete advertising professional he was, with eclectic tastes to boot. "It was my good fortune to have worked with Suresh Mullick," says Chintamani Rao, president, Universal McCann. "He belonged to an era where people brought immense knowledge to their work. He was a repository of knowledge. He knew about literature, history, western and Indian classical music… His knowledge was simply incredible."

Above all, Mullick was a nice human being. A fact everyone vouches for. "When he walked into the room, it was like sunshine walking in," says Kapur. "He was one of those born optimists, one of those truly bindaas fellows who never cared about himself. He was kind to everybody and wouldn't hurt a fly." Pandey couldn't agree more. "He mixed around with people and treated us juniors like friends," he says. "In fact, it is his style of teams-man-ship that we follow in this agency even today."

People management was Mullick's forte. "He was extremely sensitive, compassionate and a very good team player," recalls Mani Ayer. "He promoted non-performers and got the best out of them. Something not many creative people do, or have the ability to do." Yet, Mullick wasn't the type to suffer nonsense gladly. "I remember when we had these board meetings, he would just cut through the rubbish and come straight to the point," says Rao. "His way of expressing himself was very direct, yet disarming. So nobody took offence to it. Rather, he was admired and respected for his straightforwardness and honesty."

Mullick's demise is certainly a loss to Indian advertising. But what makes it sadder is the fact that "he was a creative stalwarts who perhaps didn't get enough of the recognition he deserved", observes Pandey. "I have not only lost a mentor but also a good friend." Kapur concurs when he says, "It is a personal loss for many of us."

Interestingly, Mullick was also a big cricket aficionado. "We used to discuss cricket endlessly, dissecting every game and player," Ganapathy says. Pandey too recalls Mullick's passion for the game. "Once, when I was getting restless in the agency and was in a hurry to make my career happen, Suresh sent me a letter asking me to exercise patience. 'One run at a time,' was the metaphor he had used. I think it is great advice for any junior wanting to play a long innings." As an afterthought, Pandey adds with a smile, "He probably took to me initially because of my cricketing abilities."

All going well, 12 days from now, Suresh Mullick might have celebrated India's World Cup triumph. But Fate had other plans for the gentleman… © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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