Air India’s interest rate is likely to have skyrocketed in recent years due to the ongoing controversies. Fresh in public memory is the “pee-gate” scandal. But even youunder bludgeonings luck, if there is one bloody but unbowed head, and the Maharaja’s – Air India’s unflappable mascot.
The cherubic face, folded hands, closed eyes and benevolent smile, everything about the Maharaja speaks of love. He is also a symbol of flying days; when Air India ruled the skies. Sometimes ugly and sometimes good, this is the story of the Maharaja as we know it.
A king is born
Sorab Kaikushroo Kooka or Bobby Kooka may not be ringing many bells these days, but he was the man who sees Air India’s timeless mascot. Kooka was hired in 1938 by Tata Group airlines (then named Tata Airlines) as a sales manager.
Back then, airlines faced intense competition from international carriers such as PanAm and Air France. For Air India to stand out, it had to hard sell its concept of The Great Indian Hospitality.
Kooka enlisted Umesh Rao, an artist with J. Walter Thompson in Mumbai to bring this mascot. So Maharajaa was born in 1946.
“We call him Maharajaa because we want to explain it better. But his blood is not blue. He may look like royalty, but he is not royalty,” said Kooka about his beloved creation.
Escape of the Maharaja
Over the years, Maharajaa became synonymous with Air India, and won many awards for the company. “For millions of travellers, the Maharaja with his style, charm and wisdom is a real person. He is like a friend to every Air India passenger. A friend who reaches out to people with love and hospitality, even in the most remote parts of the world,” said Air India.
Long before Amul made headlines, Air India created entertainment with the traveling Maharaja in various avatars from around the world. In Tokyo, he wore a kimono and participated in sumo wrestling. In Geneva, he fell in love with beer. He sold flowers in Europe and rowed a sampan in Hong Kong.
At other times, he sat a little in the chair, showing his brave side and laughing a little. For example, she appeared as a Playboy bunny in a London photo shoot. He also sold “dirty photos” in the back of Paris. As a lifeguard at Sydney’s Bondi Beach, Maharaja also used binoculars to look at scantily clad women.
In another Roman painting, the king is shown slyly stealing coins from well-wishers.
These colorful mascot images made him a tough guy with his tricks, unlike the two-faced, good-for-two mascots we’re used to. He had a good sense of humor and didn’t care about being judged. He was badass and we loved him.
Like Amul’s moppet, Maharaja also kept an eye on topical issues, commenting even on national politics.
From the past.
(courtesy – family) pic.twitter.com/8KnotnNsCx
— Marya Shakil (@maryashakil) January 30, 2022
The king of the people
Like any other king, the Maharaja also had many opponents and some planned a coup to remove him. He also said that given the democratic nature of India, a Maharaja – a symbol of India’s history – could not be a good representative of the country’s aviation industry. In 1989, they managed to get rid of the mascot, but the Maharaja’s support did not come from the royals but from the community. Indians loved him so much that Air India had to bring back the mascot.
Not so long ago, even the Narendra Modi government wanted to replace him with a commoner, but luckily, nothing happened, and the Maharajaa has maintained his undisputed rule ever since. Here’s hoping that Air India and the Maharaja wave will get through the turmoil and continue to build their reputation together.