The Dying Art Of Hand-Painted Film Posters And Cinematic Culture In India - Homegrown

The Dying Art Of Hand-Painted Film Posters And Cinematic Culture In India

We’re fast approaching an era that is slowly viewing the world with a lack of cinema halls and theatres. In a pandemic stricken world where the authentic cinema-viewing experience is rapidly being replaced by OTT platforms, it is an undeniable fact that a large piece of this cultural history associated with Indian cinema is being erased alongside.

A theatre experience up till the mid-2000s was vibrant and enthralling. Any cinema-goer in this period would have witnessed the larger-than-life movie posters, hand-painted cut-outs of actors, patrons selling tickets discreetly in black and more. The grandeur of Indian cinema lies not just in the 2-3 hour viewing experience but in the glorious community of cinephiles who make the experience feel like a festivity. This culture of hand-painted

Hand-painted cut outs of silver-screen stars created a cult-like status to commercial Indian actors, especially in the South. The tradition of providing ‘temple-like’ offerings, elaborate garlanding of cut-outs, religious ceremonies undertaken outside the theatre to ensure the success of the films and more created a unique culture for the creators and the audience of Indian cinema.

Pockets of communities, especially in Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru worked generationally on creating hand-painted posters for Indian films for close to 50 years. The gaudy, overwhelming and theatric visual representations went on to form a passive culture for the Indian community and with its disappearance, the community is just waking up to an art form that went by unappreciated.

The kitschy visuals of torn movie posters on side walks, large bill-boards of movie posters were all a representation of the collective Indian desire, it is a blaring portrayal the other-worldly status that the country attributes to its stars. From the classic hand-printed film posters of icon, Satyajit Ray to the local mass produced, hand drawn film posters that occupy almost every empty space on Indian streets, a silent movement of cinematic art thrived up until the mid-90s.

In this previous report by our team, we throw light on the maverick-film poster makers of Bengaluru is a stark representation of how these artists choose not evolve on their skill but strive hard to keep the tradition alive even in an increasingly digitised world.

Micro-industries sprung up around film-cities, popular single-screen theatres and more. The Indian cinematic universe is a one that only gives and it helped create a new niche of street art and culture for the entire country’s masses.

Hand-painted movie posters which appeared in the early 1920s are now mere ghosts of the country’s recent cultural past. This concept however became a poignant topic of study and exploration for several Indian and International artists and filmmakers alike who delved deep into studying them and the community that it encompassed.

Banners, cutouts and posters’: Tamil cinema’s tryst with visual art’ an explorative panel discuss hosted by Chennai Photo Biennale can be streamed here.

In Search of a Fading Canvas’ by Manohar Singh Bisht which is a documentary submitted to the Mumbai film festival is another interesting exploration of this dying art form. You can stream it here.

Cover image credit: (L) M.F Husain’s work on Chennai’s film posters featured on the scroll.

(R): Satyajit Ray’s poster for his Bengali-feature film ‘Mahanagar’

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