Dying Art of Bollywood Poster Making
On 2 Jan 2012 when I saw the first look poster of Rowdy Rathore, It already got a plus one from me. It had what had been missing for a very long time. The movie posters were hand
illustrated painted posters. I was eagerly waiting for the movie to release on 15 June. I had always been drawn towards the old vintage Bollywood poster but it was only after seeing the Rowdy Rathore posters, my subconscious liking got awakened. These posters reminded me of an era where posters were hand painted with bright colors, creative large fonts and a larger than life feeling. These posters were sprawled over bill boards giving the actors a god like stature. Ganga Jamuna, Mela, Pakeeza, Kabhi Kabhi, Deewar, Sholay, Umrao Jaan are the classic examples of how magnificent these images were.
I had always been drawn towards the old vintage Bollywood poster but it was only after seeing the Rowdy Rathore posters, my subconscious liking got awakened. It was so that the sword of curiosity slashed through my shield of procrastination and I finally decided to find about the history of this amazingly vibrant and long forgotten art.As I went further to suffice my curiosity it became evident to me that from the early 1920’s to the early 1970’s these posters were widely used by the film industry. The Bengal film industry being the oldest film industry in India had these posters in Satayjit Ray movies, the then emerging Bollywood and down south in the south Indian movies.
The Bollywood industry however got my complete attention as it followed a distinctive method to make its movie posters, the posters were initially hand painted and then later approved by the concerned media house. After the approval the posters were sent for printing using a unique method. This method was called lithography. Lithography in a common man’s language would be a method in which a paper is especially treated so the ink sticks to some parts and not to the rest. This gave the images the visual effect of dual coloring with eye catching colors in vibrant contrasts. More over there was the effect of the brilliantly added highlights and huge brush strokes.
As creativity took another step in the art form, the artists used others methods like knife painting to add emotion to the posters. A brilliant example of this would be the famous poster of Deewar, show casing Amitabh Bachan’s ‘Angry Young Man’ emotion with sharp lines and strokes. These posters for a large part became the hallmark of the Bollywood film posters. The artists or ustaads caught the onlooker’s complete attention creating a larger than life feeling, creating stardom and making Bollywood the dreamland to aspire for millions across the world. Sigh! Such was the life.
Over the period of time and technological advancement, this touch of individuality has vanished and only surfaces once in a blue moon in posters like Rowdy Rathore and aren’t made much attention to. It’s a dying art in Indian industry. It’s not a surprise at all that this Art of Bollywood Poster Making is taught in many prestigious art schools on a world level. As an art form it’s unconventional and flexible and largely accepted in the West as it caught their attention plus gave Bollywood its unique signature style to showcase in the international level.
According to me the art is in its last phase. The new day poster’s could be wonderfully hi-tech with the right modern day aesthetics but what they lack is the sense on individuality, creativity and pull. At the end of the day, they all end up looking the same, there is no visual treat. Example to give would be to predict the genre of the movie by looking at the facial exspression of the character, like looking at the posters of Chupke Chupke starring Dharmendra and Golmaal starring Ajay Devgan, both are from the genre of comedy but there is an element missing in the latter. As my curiosity has gone to celeberate the glory of this art form, I am left with another food for thought about our constant need to westernize our world. The Japanese are known for the animation all over the world and this art is also taught all throughout the world and the world is sure envious of it. And yet here we are in India losing the art which is uniquely ours to claim.