Ad guru, scuba diver, restaurateur, cigar
manufacturer... Prahlad Kakkar juggles many hats with elan,
says Smita Iyengar
you wear a hat, you instantly get noticed, you just cant
be missed! The hat is what makes me distinguishing, thats
what makes people recognise me. I have never been on a waitlist
and not got the first available ticket because the lady behind
the counter seemed to recognise the hat!
Prahlads hat certainly does
the trick for him! Sporting his cowboy appearance with a degree
of elan, Prahlad maintains his characteristic carefully dishevelled
look. His verve of non-conformism is in fact the core of his
entire persona. His grandmom considered him to be a kalankh
to the khandan as she thought advertising was about
pasting posters on public urinals. But we thought we
could make better ad films than our then contemporaries,
says Prahlad. Fondly referred to as the madman
of the ad world, Prahlad today happens to be one of the most
creative ad film makers the country has.
It was as an assistant to Shyam Benegal
that Prahlad took his first plane journey to make an election
film for the late Indira Gandhi. She had suddenly declared
a mid-term poll and Shyam was given the unenviable task of
making an election film for her, which was eventually handed
over to me. As a result, I had to fly up and down Delhi-Mumbai
to complete the assignment, he says. But his preferred
mode of travel is the train. He loves the rhythm of
the train, the smells and sights and the sounds that animate
from various stations. Flying is alright so long as
its not on Indian Airlines, I swear if I have
a choice including that of a flying bullock cart I would refuse
to fly Indian Airlines. as I have had some really rotten experiences
with the airline. I generally fly Jet Airways, he remarks.
fact its only the hurly-burly of his schedules that
make him opt for aircrafts. But till very recently he used
to take the Konkan Express to Cochin enroute to Lakshadweep
where he owns two scuba diving schools alongwith his wife
Mitali, who apart from being an ad film director and mother
of three, is also a senior diving instructor. While
we learnt how to dive in Mauritius, where I usually instructed,
Lakshadweep is where I keep going back to. It never ceases
to amaze me with its pristine, natural beauty and quality
of diving. And while I enjoy it, Mitali is a much better diver
than I ever will be, he chuckles.
His ultimate destination though seems
to be Goa where he has actually built the first house he ever
owned. I love Goa and the attitude of the Goans, although
Ive ignored it for a while due to Lakshadweep, Im
sure to go back and eventually live there, he states.
Ideal of course given his fun loving
personality. Humour works best as people are so full
of problems. If a commercial puts forward its product proposition
surrounded with a bit of humour, not slapstick but slightly
quirky, funny, insightful, it makes you smile, it touches
your life, explains Prahlad. Genesis, his own ad film
making brand, was essentially characterised by a jovial verve
that reflected in all his campaigns, as he set the stage for
future trends in advertising film humour.
With its humble beginnings Genesis
barely provided for a living, but it was driven by fervent
passion. Today its portfolio includes Pepsi, Maggi, ITC, Nestle
and Britannia, but its not the money that matters. I
am not a businessman on any count, and I have never pursued
money as an end-game. Its the passion that drives me
to do what I believe in, that keeps me going. All my business
interests are basically passions, the business element doesnt
take precedence over the passion and I dont think I
be capable of sustaining any business interest if it wasnt
also a passion, admits Prahlad.
restaurant business also stemmed from his instinctive
flair for cooking. Cooking to me is important
as it gave me access to a lot of beautiful young women, because
if my face was my fortune I wouldnt have gotten anywhere.
As a matter of fact, I started cooking initially because I
realised that I would have to make a slightly different approach
towards women as they were certainly not going to be attracted
by my face or physicality, cooking would be a unique attribute
and it would help me talk my face away, he laughs. Food
fascinates him. Even his office sports a full-fledged kitchen.
An impassioned foodie, Prahlad is experimental with his cuisine.
While his favourite restaurant is India Jones, at The Oberoi,
Mumbai, his craving for home- made north Indian cuisine takes
him to Papa Pancho, which is a place he helped start in Bandra,
Mumbai. He has also recently started a restaurant at the Imax
Adlabs in Mumbai called Sarson Da Saga which retains the home
cooked flavour of Papa Pancho but still has its own identity.
Man of many hats, Prahlad
also happens to be a cigar connoisseur and manufactures a
cigar brand called Shergar in the Philippines.
The cigar is manufactured with the aim to match the standards
of his personal favourite Cuban cigar brand Monte Cristo.
So how does he manage to handle so
many portfolios and still keep up the energy levels, Essentially
I have never really worked a single day in my life. Combining
a whole lot of fun and passion into my work days, makes my
work much more interesting, he says.
But who is Prahlad Kakkar really
? An aggressive corporate - ad guru, gastronome and restaurateur,
cigar connoisseur, scuba diver, globe trotter or a celebrity
who has become a page three phenomenon? I
dont see the difference between being a celebrity and
a corporate. Both embarrass me, the former because it smacks
of respectability which is the furthest thing from my mind
and the latter because I dont understand why the media
make such a hoopla unless it justifies the cycle between beauty
and ugly and that every now and then they bring out beauty
and every now and then ugly is in. Thats the only reason
everybody to a certain extent features me in page three kind
of things because maybe ugly is in, he says.