Our cities and villages are nothing short of an exhibition space, where the whitewashed walls of the narrow streets or the billboards on a highway are adorned with larger than life, vibrant celluloid posters, giving us a slice of the pleasures of Bollywood.
Every outing to the city space would draw our gaze to these Bollywood posters, and with time one gets oblivious to not only their presence but also the talent that goes behind the making of these vibrant, dramatic, and sometimes eccentric-looking posters.
The first few films that were made in India including Raja Harishchandra (1913) and Alam Ara (1931) were either directly screened or advertised through newspapers or handbills as was the norm in those times. The earliest film poster could be traced back to the 1920s film, Kalyan Khajina. Celluloid posters were particularly in vogue till the 1980s.
These posters, meant for outdoor advertisements, cut across regional disparity bringing alive the magic of Bollywood to the Indian masses. They were designed using a strategic formula of minimal text and a vibrant and almost kitschy illustration with visible bush strokes of the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ that was sure to grab attention. To catch the eyeballs was the main intent, as a lot of the people from amongst the masses were not literate.
With the advent of technology, film posters are now digitally printed which has led to the decline of hand-painted posters.
Films can now be publicised on various mediums including social media. During the pandemic, many films have been released on online platforms, so the demand for digital posters has naturally risen. With lesser patrons for this art form, there has been an increase in the interest shown by art collectors, museums, historians, film lovers to archive hand-painted posters, an art that has gradually died down.
These are a select few vintage Bollywood posters that are bound to invoke nostalgia, and also draw our attention to how the posters art responded to the changing times and environment. It is also evident from these posters, that love story was a favorite theme through decades.
An art form that is not restricted to imagining the design of one poster but also its replication that will be stuck across the city walls, is sheer talent and unrelenting hard work. It is unfortunate that posters of the early 30s and 40s have perished with time, but there are posters of later decades that can be archived, and preserved for posterity, to be studied by historians and art lovers alike to understand the delineation of our films which are indeed a reflection of the changing faces of the society and culture.
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