Fiery, Vibrant & Colorful.
These are the first three words that sprung to my mind when I saw Ishmam’s digital illustrations of Bengali posters imagined on matchboxes. Since the introduction of matchboxes in the Indian subcontinent during the early 1900s, the small size of matchboxes has been a canvas for intricate and colorful designs, often depicting various aspects of the subcontinent’s culture, mythology, politics, and daily life. Recently, especially over the last decade, the resurgence of interest in vintage and retro art forms has contributed to the renewed popularity of matchbox art. Ishmam has combined the beloved and nostalgic matchbox art form with Bengali posters, making his series thoroughly unique and visually arresting.
Ishmam is from Dhaka, Bangladesh and I am from Kolkata, India but our linguistic ties make us two peas in a pod. Bengali posters are known for being casually enigmatic, colorful and witty. Ishmam’s series does justice to all of this. Since most of Homegrown’s readership reads in English, I will attempt to translate the writings on the posters in the series, as per the order of the carousel.
The first illustration features the beautiful Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and the writing captures that. It roughly translates to “Your beauty is fiery”. Aishwarya may be a Bollywood icon but she is loved by Bengalis for her stellar performance in her Bengali debut film Choker Bali, based on Rabindranath Tagore’s novel and directed by Riturparno Ghosh. Besides her Bengali connection, there are a hundred reasons to pay tribute to the former Miss World.
The next illustration translates to “Wanted love, got pain”. The bold pink typography against the green background is visually flourishing. Whether it be the burning beauty of Aishwarya or burning from the pain of unrequited love, fire is a constant theme in all of Ishmam’s illustrations.
The next illustration translates to “I say let’s shoot these yearnings for love.” Funnily enough, this seems like the next stage that arrives after the failed love affair. There is a certain sense of light anger to it. On the top left of the illustration is a funny quip, which translates to “100% dangerous”. Without a doubt, love, like fire’, is quite volatile and dangerous.
The following illustration translates to “Be alone, be happy.” Humorously interpreted, this seems to be the next stage. Anger dissipates and one realizes that they are better off alone.
The fifth poster roughly translates to “Mind is angry but heart is soft.” Two bright red faces facing opposite sides with a glowing heart in between, as they are engulfed in fire is a wonderful metaphor for even though we get angry with the ones we love, we eventually give in owing to the love we harbor for them. Heart over mind, essentially.
The next poster is probably my favorite one, where he rhymes reel with Dil (Heart). “First you send me reel, then you send me your heart(love)”, is what it roughly translates to. In the age of social media, we are no strangers to this phenomenon. So many of relationships initially begin with reel-ationships.
The last poster translates to “ I know but I don’t accept.” This one’s most definitely dedicated to all the hopeless romantics who know their love story is not meant to be but they don’t accept it. We can move away from romance and still, this writing applies to all of those who love the warm blanket called denial. Once again, heart over mind.
All works of art are open to interpretation and these are just mine.
To explore more such amazing artworks, follow Ishmam here.
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