Looking through the gazillions of airline posters produced over the years, one name stands out and commands premium values in today’s market : Air India. And the reason ? A little guy in a turban who pulls the whole collection together.
‘We call him a Maharajah for want of a better description. But his blood isn’t blue. He may look like royalty, but he isn’t royal.’ These are the words of Bobby Kooka, the man who conceived the Maharajah.
This now familiar lovable figure first made his appearance in Air India way back in 1946, when Bobby Kooka as Air India’s Commercial Director and Umesh Rao, an artist with J.Walter Thompson Ltd., Mumbai, together created the Maharajah.
The Maharajah began merely as a rich Indian potentate, symbolizing graciousness and high living. And somewhere along the line his creators gave him a distinctive personality: his outsized moustache, the striped turban and his aquiline nose.
What began as an attempt as a design for an inflight memo pad grew to take Air India’s sales and promotional messages to millions of travellers across the world. Today, this naughty diminutive Maharajah of Air India has become a world figure. He can be a lover boy in Paris, a sumo wrestler in Tokyo, a pavement artist, a Red Indian, a monk… he can effortlessly flirt with the beauties of the world. And most importantly, he can get away with it all. Simply because he is the Maharajah!
He has completed 56 years and become the most recognizable mascot the world over. His antics, his expressions, his puns have allowed Air India to promote it’s services with a unique panache and an unmatched sense of subtle humour. In fact he has won numerous national and international awards for Air India for humour and originality in publicity.
And as with all great men, he too has had his critics. But the millions of travellers whose lives he has touched far outnumber them. In fact, to them, the Maharajah with his inimitable style, charm and wit is a very real person. He’s almost like a friend to every Air India traveller. A friend who reaches out with warmth and hospitality, even to the farthest corners of the world.
Now for the treat part : The blog has been contacted by Jon Simmonds : a pilot with a passion for airline posters : his website is
I urge you to visit it, a huge wow factor and amazing collection await you.
Air India posters are very scarce but Jon has kindly sent me these exotic images
Thanks Jon and Happy collecting !