RIP Anvar Alikhan

Indian advertising lost a writer, historian, film buff and a thorough gentleman. Campaign India pays tribute to the one and only Anvar Ali Khan.

03 Jan 2018 | By PrintWeek India

'I believe he was to retire from JWT this week and they were planning a farewell for him'   I was a young account executive at Ogilvy Mumbai when I heard that a new senior creative director called Anvar Ali Khan had joined. I’d see him walking past -- a tall, fair, good looking man with light eyes and a hearty laugh.    Then one day, he suddenly walks up to my table and, without any introduction, asks, “How many creative directors does it take to change a lightbulb?” Taken aback, I managed to stammer “Er..How many?” He said, “Hahaha, none! Because creative directors don’t change anything!”   

 From that moment onwards, Anvar became a friend. He always had time for us youngsters, ready to help, always ready to share a joke. He encouraged wit and humour in the office as he believed that an office resonating with laughter would have the highest morale and produce the best work. He started a hilarious topical graffiti competition in office and gave away prizes to the winners (even though his own graffiti was often the best).   

Apart from humour, Anvar and I found a common passion in the works of P.G. Wodehouse and we spent many evenings discussing the intricacies of Wodehousian characters and their satirical take on British society.   Even though I left Ogilvy in 1989, Anvar kept in touch over the years, sending me wonderful articles, jokes and snippets on music that he knew I’d love to read. He was extremely well read and knowledgeable, with an outstanding command over the English language.  

I believe he was to retire from JWT this week and they were planning a farewell for him. A colleague of his had got in touch with me to record a small video clip as a memoir for his party, which I was to record and send today. And then last evening, I heard that Anvar had bid adieu to this life.   

Farewell, my friend. I’m sure, as you entered, you asked the guy at heaven’s gates, “How many angels does it take to change a lightbulb?’’ By now, the heavens must be resonating with laughter.  

(Subhash Kamath is the CEO and managing partner at BBH India) 

My friend Anvar Alikhan  

Both Anvar and I joined Frank Simoes Advertising on the same day - October 13, 1971.    He joined as a trainee copywriter and I as a trainee account executive.   

Anvar worked closely with Frank on the Taj and Raymond accounts.  I remember our early years clearly.   

One campaign I would never forget is a campaign for Raymond. It was a long copy ad written by Anvar. The font was Optima - not available with typesetters those days. Anvar worked closely with the studio, made bromides of the type face(now called fonts), cut and pasted every letter in the text of the ad. He would spend late hours to ensure that there was not a single error.   

Can never forget his fine writing, attention to detail, affable ways, professionalism and sense of humour. We were colleagues again in Ogilvy.    In his last Facebook post he talked about a new journey. Little did I realise that this would be an altogether different journey from all of us.   

We will all miss you Anvar. Knowing you, you will always make a difference wherever you are.  

(R Sridhar is a renowned innovation facilitator, consultant and coach.)     

Historian, foodie and a true Hyderabadi  

As an advertising person when I first came to Mumbai in 1994, there were only a few famous advertising writers whom I had heard of. They were considered to be the legends of advertising in Mumbai. One of them was Anvar Alikhan.   

I did not have the good fortune of interacting with him personally in those days. But over the years, after he moved back to Hyderabad, I got to know him because of our family ties. I discovered that he was among the very few chroniclers of advertising who was well versed with the history of Indian advertising. He was full of life in terms of his varied interests. One of his greatest interests was cinema. He conducted many workshops. Apart from advertising workshops, he also did work in the area of cinema where he used to do specific talks on Hitchcock and others.  

One of the things that people will remember him for is his amazing sense of humour. He would lace his conversations with humour and could crack every joke with a straight face.   

He would write about film and food and he was a historian of Hyderabad. The Untold Charminar: Stories from Hyderabad had a major contribution from him.    Recently he conducted a talk for the IAA India Chapter in Hyderabad. He was very keen to do another round of the talk but that’s unfortunately something that will not happen. People will always remember him for the fact that he was a true Hyderabadi, somebody who was generous in conducting his life in every sense.   

(Kaushik Roy is a senior advertising and marketing professional.) 

This article was published on 22 December 2017 by Campaign India.