Submitted by admin on Mon, 04/24/2017 - 13:56

Writer Kamlesh Pandey pays tribute to adman and design aficionado Virupaksh Hiremath, who passed away in Bangalore recently


Virupaksh Hiremath, Viru to all of us from the Class of 1969 at Sir J.J.Institute of Applied Arts, is no more. He was a gold medallist from the Class of 1969 and much awarded by CAG and Ad Club for his enviable work and became Art Director of the Year many times. On April 5, 2017 at around 3.30 am in Bangalore, he breathed his last, leaving not only his family and friends behind, but all the designs he could have visualized and created…

logos, symbols, campaigns, brochures, labels, packaging, posters and hoardings, with an original Viru stamp… they will now never be finished. They will never know his precise touch, his bare, almost minimal style, the innovative way he played with space within a frame, the subtle colours he allowed to sneak into his work, it is all history now. Glorious history, but history nonetheless. Indian advertising and design will be poorer without Viru.

Viru Hiremath evoked our collective envy because not just his work, even his personal life was so beautifully and perfectly designed and colour coordinated. His home, his clothes, the buttons on his shirt, the shape of his collar, the fall and pleat of his trousers, his shoes, his hair right down to the streak of grey (in later years) were so perfectly maintained that we used to tease him about it. This was too much, a man needs a little bit of chaos, imperfection… we said… How could a man have everything around him, his work and his life, so well designed and coordinated? We often analysed Viru’s perfection and concluded he had everything— an incredible portfolio of work, the most beautiful wife Surekhaji, two lovely kids - Mahesh, well known ad photographer, and Archana, home-maker and contemporary dancer, a home which would be any art director’s envy, three wonderful grand-daughters and a son-in-law Dr Manoj Bharucha who looked after his health and his investments, giving Viru financial independence to sustain his lifestyle and generosity towards his loved ones. As if being blessed with such a family was not enough, he was also blessed with friends like us who envied him, loved him, admired him, felt proud of him, looked up to him, learnt from him, worked with him, applauded his every award and teased him, pulled his leg, joked at his expense and enjoyed his hospitality. Yes, Viru was our collective envy, which spiced up our friendship as much as sweetened it.  


I never called him Viru, unlike my other classmates, I always called him ‘Hiremath Saab’ which he often resented because it made him look older. But older he was. In 1965, when we rolling stones entered Sir J.J.Institute of Applied Arts in the 1st Year, we had just passed our SSC or 12th but Hiremath Saab had already done his graduation before he came to JJ. Not only had he done his graduation, but he was already married when we the pimply gang still ogled at girls from a safe distance. The day I met him for the first time in JJ, he confided in me that he had just become father to a son! His son Mahesh had just been born that day, and Hiremath Saab made me promise to keep his secret, especially from the girls in the class!

From July 1965 to April 5,2017, which, either by sheer coincidence or by some divine design, also happened to be his 76th birthday, we had come a long way, straddling careers in advertising, often freelancing together, doing some landmark work. I had left JJ in 1967 to become a struggling copy-writer because if I couldn’t be as good a visualizer as Viru, it was better to be at least a better copy-writer. Then I changed gear and started moonlighting as a screen-writer in Bollywood. But the friendship continued.

What haunts me now are not memories of 52 years of our friendship, but Viru’s absence from all future events that are going to happen in my life. He won’t be there for them. The movies and television shows I am going to write, my family functions like weddings and birthdays, his frequent phone calls, the reunions of the Class of 1969 of Sir.J.J.Institute of Applied Arts, meals at each other’s homes, gossip, laughter, pranks, pulling legs, jokes, parties that he loved, they are all going to be without Viru because by taking away Viru, death has taken away the future. Perhaps the future will be there one way or other because nothing stops for anybody, but it won’t be the same without Viru.


Volume No: 
Issue No: