I first met Irshwin Balwani under the most curious of circumstances. I had joined Times of India as chief manager of Times Television, and had inherited all the payables and receivables. Mostly receivables. On that list was one Irshwin Balwani, who, the records at my disposal insisted, owed us a little over a lakh of rupees.
I called him up and asked him when he would settle the amount.
A furious Irshwin said that he was owed a few lakhs by us, and not the other way round. He came to the office the next morning with all the relevant papers – most of which I hadn’t seen, as they were not in the files in my possession. Irshwin was right; some bills he had raised had not been booked by my department.
So began a friendship.
Sorting out his money caused us to meet seven or eight times. It also caused him to meet others that he knew in the Times of India building.
I don’t recall exactly how it happened, but Irshwin came on board as a consultant.
This was at a time when Times Music was being launched. Times Music was run by bunch of cowboys and loose cannons, including me. Anyone with a project that made sense ran to Mr.Arun Arora, then executive director, Bennett, Coleman and Company Limited, whose baby Times Music was.
Irshwin watched from the sidelines as someone signed on Akbar Sami, Mr. Arora himself signed on Jassi and I bulldozed my way through with The War of the DJs and with Stereonation’s Jambo. I had a few jokers up my sleeve with the best relationships with both MTV and Channel [V], extraordinarily important when it came to ensuring high rotation for the music videos which accompanied all albums.
Irshwin still watched, holding his cards close to his chest.
Till one day he laid down his hand. Three aces would be the best way to describe the cards.
He took Manisha Koirala and her then companion DJ Whosane to meet Mr Arora and Times Music was all set to launch another album – a trance album.
Irshwin proved to be a better bulldozer than anyone else around, convincing Mr. Arora that two music videos were required, of which one – hold your breath – would be an animated video. He got his way.
It didn’t end there. He next walked in with Sunil Shetty and his wife, having convinced Sunil to do an album for children – pro bono. That was the coup to beat all coups.
That was the quintessential Irshwin. He always got his way, though it didn’t quite look like that. He was passionate about his work, his colleagues, his friends, the projects he worked on, his wife, his kids, his non-smoking, his fitness, his clothes.
His passion was visible; he got his team to love whatever it was that they were working on.
His passion at Times Music caused Mr. Arora to have him head the proposed music channel. It was a project that never started – but Irshwin’s passion refused to die.
He went across to meet the other powerhouse of BCCL, Mr. Pradeep Guha, who was, by now, with Zee. Irshwin left BCCL to join Zee as head of business of Zee Muzic.
You would understand the use of the word if you worked in BCCL during that period. I can’t think of another who was as close to both Mr. Arora and Mr. Guha. Who was trusted and respected by both. Not because Mr. Arora and Mr. Guha would not accept it, but because the building whispered loudly that they would not.
That was Irshwin.
Many, many friends, colleagues and business associates will miss him dearly.