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My Story: I lied in my first interview!

That’s Santosh Padhi, aka Paddy, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Taproot India, the man Cannes Lions has ranked as one of the Top 10 Creatives in the world. He had actually wanted to join the Army, but fate took him to Mudra instead – and how

Mumbai | January 5, 2015


Advertising was never my first choice and I had no clue about this domain nor had ever thought that someday I will have my own advertising agency! Being a student of Shardashram Vidyamandir, Mumbai, a school known for producing some of the finest cricketers including Sachin Tendulkar, I was always inclined towards sports. I was good at cricket and NCC, but could never think of it as a viable career option because my parents never backed me in this.

However, towards the end of my schooling, I found the new love of my life: painting. I was doing with my brush what Sachin was doing with his bat. Effortless strokes and masterful nudges came easily to me and I wanted to get into an Arts college.

Unfortunately, I scored well in my SSC exams and my parents and relatives were adamant I take up either Science or Commerce. I got Commerce in Kirti College, Mumbai, but later I changed my mind and applied to Sir JJ Institute of Applied Arts. Getting through one of the best Arts colleges took several rounds of drama and lots of convincing. But, finally I landed up in JJ. Then, immediately after my admission, I started feeling that JJ was not meant for a middle class boy like me.

Meanwhile, I started searching for other alternatives. I had always dreamt of joining the Armed Forces because my dad was in the Army, and at this point of my life, I once again decided to rekindle the thought which had taken a backseat for some time. I applied for a post in the Naval Dock and was at it for almost 18 months. After getting rejected twice for being underweight, I finally cleared all the physical, medical and entrance tests. But on the day of the interview, I was asked to pay a hefty bribe in exchange for a seat at the Naval Dock. It was then that I finally decided to give up my dream of being in the Armed Forces and good that I did.

What is funny is that someone used my name and was there at the Naval Dock for two years. This person couldn’t clear the tests, so he got an affidavit done, changed his name to Santosh Padhi and after two years again got it changed to his original name. That is how things in this country work!

So now I was left with no other option but to seriously complete my course at JJ. I worked very hard, did lots of freelancing and made every possible attempt to cover up for the loss of the first two years which I wasted. My effort reflected in the exam results and so in the third year of college, I stood second, in the fourth year I was first and in the fifth year I ranked third in University.

While in my final year, I went to Mudra one day in order to show them my work and also seek some professional guidance, which would help me understand if I was headed in the right direction. There, I met Lata Vasudevan, then a Writer at Mudra, who suggested that I meet Nalesh Patil, one of the hottest Creative Directors in Mudra at that time. But, before I met Nalesh, I got a call from the Bollywood actor, Rahul Bose, who was then the Creative Director of Rediffusion; he wanted to see my work. I thought that I shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity, so I went ahead and fixed an interview with him. I was given a 2 PM slot on a Wednesday, and before leaving for the interview, I decided to reconfirm the time of the meeting. I dialled the Rediffusion office landline number and was told that Rahul Bose had resigned and left the organisation a couple of hours back!

Now I pinned all my hopes on my meeting with Nalesh Patil. While interacting with him, I never wanted to let him know that I stay in a chawl, because I found all Creative Directors a bunch of cool guys and if I tell them I live in a chawl, it will surely have a negative impact. To my horror, this is how the conversation went:

NP: Where do you stay?

Me: In Dadar

NP: Where in Dadar?

Me: In Shaitan Chowki

NP: Where in Shaitan Chowki?

By now I was wiping my sweating forehead. After gulping a glass of water, I said: In Jalan Building.

NP: Woh building kab bana, it is a chawl! (When did it become a building, it is a chawl).

I tried to convince him that it is the same place where now a building has come up.

NP: What rubbish! I have lived in the opposite chawl; my old house is still there.

Thankfully, even after this embarrassing episode, I got hired as a Trainee Visualiser in Mudra (May be because I couldn’t lie well) and Nalesh later on always pulled my leg by asking, “Tera Jalan Building kab ban raha hai?” (When is your Jalan Building getting constructed?)

That is how I entered the advertising industry and landed my first job! I still can’t help smiling when I think back on that meeting with Nalesh.

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