There’s a poster for Nike Football pasted on a wall of my mind and it’s never going to come off. It’s the image of an ultrasound depicting an unborn child. Right below, is the Swoosh along with a line that says, ‘You kicked around a lot then. What’s stopping you now?’
I was a trainee copywriter when I saw this one fine morning at McCann and looking back, I feel very, very lucky that my initiation in advertising happened under the talented Mr Chakravarty – the creator of that multiple metal-winning poster (not to mention innumerable more such campaigns).
An idea can turn to dust or magic depending on the talent that rubs against it, and Ashish is the kind of talent that can summon the idea genie at will and spellbind the world. He has the sharpest advertising brain I know of. A machete, really, forged upon the anvil of strategic thinking to slash through the foliage of humdrum and discover new ideas. Scintillating stuff that makes you want to kick yourself in the posterior with the thought blurb, “Hey I wish I’d thought of that!”
Rhetoric apart, he’s one of the finest practitioners of the written word – making him a ‘copywriter’ in the truest sense. He’s an endangered specie, belonging to that league of extraordinary gentlemen who know the warp and weft, art and craft of long copy. Craft that evokes a sense of joy, wonder and nostalgia in a digital age where copywriters are YouTube or bust. Word.
And in case you thought the vernacular wasn’t his forte, throttle that thought please. His mother tongue may be Bengali, but his prowess over Hindi is like nobody else’s (except one very senior adman possibly). This duality makes him deadly as a kickboxing cobra - I’ve rarely seen someone effortlessly dispatch a script in chaste Hindi while simultaneously being a grammar-nazi in English.
As a leader, the man treasures his people as much as great ideas (to a fault at times) and inspires fierce loyalty. Why just his merry men in advertising, even clients have been known to follow him across agencies. Some may say it’s because of his youthful looks, but I can vouch it’s for the business solutions he readily provides – wearing both the hats of creative and account management with aplomb.
Always whittling a blunt thought to a sharp insight, always jumping off a cliff and growing wings on the way down, always converting base metal to gold, there’s never a dull moment with Ashish in the building. I should know because I’ve worked with him across three agencies.
Now, lest you think this is starting to sound hagiographic, allow me to shed some light on his lesser-known talents. Ashish possesses a wicked sense of humour that’s more Bhojpuri-house than Wodehouse - and one can be assured of a rip-roaring time thanks to his ready wit and steady one-liners. I recollect a bawdy ditty for Shilajit, a desi aphrodisiac, the man could narrate verbatim and have everybody in splits. Add to that, an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of music (Metallica to Malkaush), books (Proust to Manto) and single malts (Talisker to Tomintoul), making him well, not James Bond, but you get the idea.
So here’s to you old friend-boss-confidant. Let us drink life to the lees and relive the mad times we’ve had as mad men. May the force be with you.