The Magic of the Maharajah
My talk and exhibit at the J.R.D. Tata Memorial Trust annual symposium
This annual event is a wonderful coming together for so many former Air India employees of all ranks and station. They bring with them their own personal memories and experiences, and it is such a pleasure to interact with them. This year the Trustees invited me as a guest of honour, and the theme for my talk was A Tribute to J.R.D. Tata, The Magic of the Maharajah. I tried to highlight the wonderful creative work done under the stewardship of Mr. Tata, and the creative genius of persons like Kooka and Cowasjee. Much credit also goes to the talent at the Air-India design studio, and their agency, JWT (now HTA).
In it’s early days, the airline had small budgets, and had to compete against aviations giants like PanAm, BOAC, KLM, Air France and Lufthansa. The approach they took was to stand out and be different in their advertising and communication which they built around the personality of the Maharajah. This was a highly successful strategy, and the airline found favour with Indian and foreign passengers, and became profitable and fast growing in no time. The Maharajah persona was a unique blend of charming, fun loving, chivalrous and sometimes mischievous. He had a special kind of charm and chutzpah, and often got away with a lot. I also spoke incidents when various persons in India abroad took offence moments when this got Mr. Tata in trouble. It is to his credit that he did not allow this to affect the creative freedom his team enjoyed. All these incidents were touched upon in a humorous manner, and the illustrations projected brought back nostalgic memories to the audience.
I also exhibited 12 frames of Air-India artefacts related to the Maharajah theme, all dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. The exhibit was much appreciated by all who visited, and many suggested a permanent exhibit for the same. I displayed old airline posters, several sheets from the iconic 1964 calendar, decals, coasters, timetables, print advertisements, etc. Click the link here to see the entire exhibit. What I have in my collection is but a small fraction of the great work done by the airline. I can only hope that Air-India finds a way to preserve and display this proud legacy. This is a national treasure.
Vivek Matthai and me at the event.
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