Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Bald and the Beautiful.



Working in an advertising agency has its perks. Especially, when as a client servicing executive, you are reduced to a telephone operator, creative visualizer and copywriter. All this, because one employee has gone to attend a wedding, the other has fallen sick and the last one has simply quit. The same week, two relatives of the clients' decided to kick the bucket, one client pre-poned his product launch and another wanted a better option for his range of plastic buckets. So my foray into the advertising world was with two obituaries back to back. Epic!


Mid Size agencies, particularly, are a mad house where sometimes you are the matron and at other times you simply enroll in the ward. Unfortunately, clients don’t understand this and can be quite demanding. The thing about them, first, they won’t give a clear brief. Then, they realize they missed a couple of points that need to be added. By then, your presentation is ready but, you need to re do it. And of course, they refuse to acknowledge the time constraints. There is an unwritten rule in advertising. No ad campaign or artwork is ever accepted in the first shot. The brands think the agency always can come up with something better eventually, if pushed harder. The agency, invariably, over the years, have used this as a time buying technique. Never mind if the first concept is what will land up as the final ad campaign. Yup, this is a circus where big bucks and bigger bakras are involved.

The year was 1997. Our esteemed client was sponsoring a show aimed at reuniting and showcasing all the Miss Indias over time. That was the first time I was to meet her. Apprehensive and nervous, I entered the board room with my boss. A bespectacled woman with short, almost grey hair turned around, looked at us and nonchalantly asked us to sit. “Hi, I am Persis”, she said.





All images sourced from Google.


My eyes almost popped out of my sockets. This was the Persis Khambatta’? The one who’d created quite a furor with her modeling career. The one who’d managed a crossover to the elite Hollywood fraternity, at a time when Bollywood was playing Chor-Police. The one who’d shaved her head bald for Star Trek. This was her? The reality of glamour can be quite a rude awakening. I managed to stay frozen for all the time my boss spoke. Her brief was simple. She was coming out with a coffee table book dedicated to all the Miss Indias, since the first, to the present, called ‘Pride of India’. She wanted a summarized introduction of each winner as a script for the event.


Google Images


******

This time I was to meet her alone. I gently knocked on the door before entering.

“You’ve got good manners. Get rid of them if you plan to stay in this industry.”

 Sorry, I…

“Second, never be apologetic for something you haven’t done…..the world is a bitch”

Today was going to be a long day, I gathered. She told me Javed Jaffrey would be the master of ceremonies and the event was to be held at the Taj Ballroom. I was handed a rough draft of the book. I got to work. She pulled out a cigarette. Silence.


******


Two days later, she called for me. She had a couple of changes. I cursed my luck.

“These women are such ******. No one remembers them anymore. I am trying to revive memories here and they show me attitude. ***** of the first order. The newer lot is much better. They know how to work their PR. These old hags are the ones driving me up the wall.”

“Anything I can help with?” I asked, cautiously.

“Light me a cigarette.”

I stood rooted to the ground. A perfect ‘foot in the mouth’ moment!

She looked at me. “You don’t smoke? Good for you”. She grinned. I eased up.

While I sat, editing the script, she kept puffing away. I coughed.
Is this troubling you? I’ll step out.

Why do you need to smoke that much? I asked absent mindedly. Too late, the words were out. I waited to be slaughtered.

It helps me stay calm and deal with the idiots around.

I almost looked offended.

“Don’t make that face. You have yet to get there”, she said, as if reading my mind. I smiled.


******

She called and asked me to come over. I went willingly this time. She was not so bad.

This is fabulous work. If I knew I could edit so much, my book would have been smaller”, she guffawed.

I had never received such open appreciation and that too from a contented client. I wanted to dance.

Is there anything I can do for you? A new job perhaps? A recommendation to some company you’d like to be a part of?

I told her I was good, but thanks for asking.

“Nobody is worth your time and effort, but you. Remember, you are indispensable only to yourself. Think about it. When you are alone, 'you' is all you have left.”


******


Three weeks later, the phone rang at my residence. Dad picked it up.

Yes, of course. Yes, I understand. That is very sweet of you. She will. Thank you.

He handed the phone to me. It was Persis.

I heard from the agency guys that you could not make it as your dad was uncomfortable about the event. Thought I’d call up and ease your old man.”. I could hear the smile in her voice. 

I look forward to seeing you. No excuses.

I will be there”, I said with a warm feeling in my heart.


******


The day arrived. Dad got a driver to drive me to the Taj. I wore a scarlet red gown. This was my first night out ever, without a chaperone. I felt like Cinderella. I reached the venue and entered hesitantly. The Taj Ballroom looked a like a rich film set. The glamour quotient was at an all time high. I felt inadequate.  Just then she saw me, walked across and gave me the biggest bear hug.

“You made it, I am so glad. Come, let me introduce you to some snooty bitches, she said with a twinkle in her eye.
 


That evening was magical. It was also the last I met and spoke to Persis. 

I got busy with a new job. She passed away the following year in August 1998. I lived to regret not being in touch. I think of her fondly, for I feel she shaped my ideologies in those few days. She rings like a voice in my head when I am faced with hard headed nuts in life. 

I am indebted to this woman who made that extra effort of calling my dad. Nobody would have missed me. But such was she. Behind that hard exterior was a woman who lived, loved and remembered. This August it has been 14 years she crossed over to the other side. I am sure she is living it up there too. 

Persis, you truly were the original 'Pride of India'.




40 comments:

jaish_vats said...

That was a very good read :)

Blogwati Gee said...

And that was very quick.....just posted :)Thanks though...I loved writing it too.

Satish Mutatkar said...

Excellent read...enjoyed!

Blogwati Gee said...

Thanks Satish....it is a memory I hold dear..

akanksha said...

So glad to read about the original diva!

Blogwati Gee said...

Oh yes she was. Amazing and fabulous!

Ruchira said...


So beautifully written .. I loved this insight into the advertising world and also into the life of one of the most beautiful women India has seen!

Blogwati Gee said...

Yes Ruchira...everything in advertising is needed as of day before...lol. Persis was a gem...I think I was lucky.

Rickie said...

What a lovely story! My first brush with Persis Khambhatta was in Star Trek The Movie. Did you every watch it? I thought she was great!
And, I think she looked like Sophia Loren :)
What agency were you at? I spent my initial years at IMRB, Delhi, btw. MR-Advertising, cousins practically!

Ugich Konitari said...

Amazing. So much heart . Both of you . Thanks for posting this !

magiceye said...

Lovely narration of a beautiful experience.

Anonymous said...

Excellent write-up felt like living it thru..

JANU said...

Amazing tribute. So glad you could see the real woman...she was an enigma.

Nirvana said...

Wow! Both the woman,and the post dedicated to her! Loved every word in it.

Corinne @ Everyday Gyaan said...

Isn't it always nice to know the person behind the 'famous' tag - sometimes they're nasty and like in this case absolutely down to earth. The advice she gave you about being indispensable only to yourself is priceless!

Ghazala Hossain said...

She sure was a fire brand. Loved reading about her. You kept the piece flowing :)

Susan Deborah said...

Some stories always remain within us no matter what. This was one such material and I am glad that you chose to share it with us.

Joy always,
Susan

Aditi Pathak said...

They rightly say that experiences are learned not borrowed. Nice article. :)

Blogwati Gee said...

Rickie, I never really saw star trek the movie that is, the series yes...but yes had heard of her. Yup she was the Indian Sophia for sure. About the agency....let me inbox you in detail :)

Blogwati Gee said...

Ugich.....thank you. I meant to do this for her....for us...

Blogwati Gee said...

Magiceye, glad you liked it.

Blogwati Gee said...

Dear Anonymous, wish I knew who you are so my gratitude would be two fold...:)

Blogwati Gee said...

Janu, yes I think someone up there really liked me...

Blogwati Gee said...

Nirvana, yup she was quite adorable. If she impacted me in just a matter of days....you can only imagine.

Blogwati Gee said...

Corinne, she was just so full of so many things I Wanted to be. She was one of the most fab human beings I ever met, truly.

Lazy Pineapple said...

That must be some experience :) I am glad she valued your work and thought that you should be there for the launch. Very few people go out of the way to acknowledge.

Blogwati Gee said...

Ghazala you are bang on about her. Glad you liked the piece.

Blogwati Gee said...

Susan, the experience is mine, but sh belonged to the world....in every sense

Blogwati Gee said...

Aditi, those are some very wise words from someone as young as you....good going kiddo :)

Blogwati Gee said...

Lazy Pineapple, that was the most wonderful thing. I can never forget that day. She called and spoke to dad and he agreed. She did not have to do it........but she did. I felt very special and very blessed.

Sameer Salunkhe said...

every time you make me speechless >:O anyway it was a good read. hamesha achha mat likho. kabhi kuchh aisa bhi likho jise main criticize kar saku :D :P

Firoze Shakir Photographerno1 said...

Firstly brilliant post amazing fluidity you take us back into time

I knew Persis too those days I worked at Burlingtons Taj Mahal.. .. we were into fashion shows on baord luxury cruisers.. Jeannie Nowrojee and the works..
Best Wishes

jan neel said...

What a wonderful tribute. I enjoyed this immensely, well written. Thank you!

Carina Fernandes Panchal said...

Im glad I got out of advertising! Was lucky to realise soon enough I wasn't cut out for all this. I remember submitting around 50 tag lines for one client and my boss like 5 while the client liked another 5. You cannot measure creativity. Which ones better than the other. One man's food is another man's poison!
Persis was a beautiful lady and you are lucky to have met her!

Blogwati Gee said...

Sameer, you are too darn good for my ego. Kya karoon control hi nahin hota :P

Blogwati Gee said...

Firoze, great to connect. Thanks for dropping by.

Blogwati Gee said...

Jan, thanks so much. I enjoyed penning it too.

Blogwati Gee said...

Carina, I truly was lucky. Yup, clients can drive you up the wall at times and then again they can be sense like that wall at other times.

Giribala said...

Reading this was such a wonderful experience!! I can only imagine what it was like to live it! Nice knowing you, Vinita :-)

Blogwati Gee said...

Giribala, it is so vividly etched in my memory I can't tell you. Thanks for dropping by.

Post a Comment

Have an opinion, voice it!

ShareThis

 
Copyright (c) 2010 BLOGWATI G. Design by WPThemes Expert
Themes By Buy My Themes And Cheap Conveyancing.