V. Shantakumar

By S Ghosh
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A Mind Without Limits

I was told that he was going to be the new creative director. I met him at our guest house: Lalit building near Cuffe Parade. In the 80’s you needed be some one special to be accepted as the creative director of Rediffusion. The agency was teeming with famous and young rebels and we wore it on our sleeves.

The first meeting was of the ‘hmmm…’ kind. We both got a measure of each other. I barely hid my scepticism. A couple of days later we met at the Oberoi coffee shop in Nariman Point. As our masks began to peel off the conversations sped ahead from Rediffusion to advertising to business to science to mathematics to philosophy and so on. I had found a soul mate. A few leap years later, over some bacchanalian hydration and jocular conversation he made sure I understood the basis of the relationship: he was the "uchchashreni brahmin of the Iyer variety!" Of course, not to be undone I explained the role of the brahmin in a Bengali society. The non existent class division disappeared.

Working with Shanta was and will always be an exothermic experience. Discussions were never benign. His intelligence, presence of mind, sheer width of knowledge are so formidable and penetrative that it was impossible not to be mentally challenged and engaged with him. The result was always predictable - the brain was roasted! The outcomes: surprising discovery of an idea or a new line of thought that would make all of us jump in joy. It would make us forget the intense heat of the argument and catalytic choices of multilingual expletives. As the choice of words sank in during a session of smoking the proverbial peace ‘cigarette', we would burst of laughing. ‘Give me Red’ happened on the staircase, the Hyundai campaigns happened in the middle of the night as we all were ready to tear each other apart or the Hyundai Accent campaign on the back of a napkin in a coffee shop in Bandra, Tata Tea was a flash of brilliance in a conference room discussion with Prahlad Kakkar. I would give anything to wind the clock back and relive the turbulence!

Shanta’s mercurial personality was so infectious that he attracted the best of talent. When I look back and think of the amazing guys we had in Rediff or Saatchi, it just blows me away. And they all came for one reason. Shanta. That’s the god-honest truth.

We became more than friends. We started a business together which hatched Saatchi & Saatchi in India. His effervescent personality, genuine affection for people, willingness to roll up his sleeve and push all of us beyond the boundaries of what we believed, was our mental limit resulted in amazing work. For all the madness that he can create, he can be intensely focused, almost in a meditative state with his work. And that’s when he is really at his best. And at his best, there are few better to work with or... kill a single malt.

Founder President & CEO
Celsius100 Consulting
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