Apart from developing an audio and video language to reach to the audience, the popular Hindi Cinema or Bollywood as it is popularly called, developed a unique visual language too,during the 1930s, through the magnificent, larger-than-life hand-painted film posters. The large banner paintings,either in the form of a collage,or over-sized cutouts of actors and actresses ,were the first major tools to promote a film. Although, the exact origins are relatively unknown,but it is widely believed that the first movie to use a poster for its publicity was KALYAN KHAJINA (1924), whose poster was designed and painted by the Director,Baburao Painter himself. In the ‘Golden era of Bollywood’, when classics such as Mother India (1957) and Mughal-E-Azam (1960), were made, the hand-painted posters were the major way to promote a movie before and after its release.
These larger-than-life movie posters were created by talented film poster artistes, who laid the foundation for hand-painted poster culture. The hundreds of film poster artistes used a wide array of locally available colours and by mixing them with linseed oil, they created magnificent designs having broad visible brush strokes and with an interesting use of colours and typography made such posters which captivated the onlooker’s attention. These artistes attempted to capture the essence of the plot of the film and used to potray certain characters with specific colours and hues, for example:-pink was the colour of love and was used liberally on the leading couple, whereas blue was the colour given to the villain. Later, when the hindi cinema was drifting towards the action genre , these artistes started using bright and bold colours such as red to give a more dramatic look to the posters. The bollywood film poster artistes not only played with colours but also added highlights of the such as the dancing figures of songs .During the 1970s a new graphic style was started which used bold exaggerated brush strokes , creating expressive image which suited the high emotional intensity of the films of that era. One of the major techniques was to potray the Angry Young Man look of Amitabh Bachchan. The superstar’s young man image is widely credited to being created by these artistes who used a unique style, that of painting with a knife instead of a brush. Thus ,it may not be wrong to say that Bollywood film poster artistes catapulted actors to superstardom and cult recognition,and gave bollywood films the grandeur that they continue to be identified with.
The hand-painted posters created by the bollywood film poster artistes , after being approved by the film production house,were translated into hundreds and thousands of film poster prints on low quality paper via the most commonly used printing techniques available-lithographic and later offset printing, and eventually sent out to distribution houses.Up until the 1950s, lithographic printing was the means to print the posters,which eventually gave way to offset printing up until 1980s. These printed posters were then distributed to bollywood film publicity agents as well as distributors and cinema theatre owners,who plastered them on every available inch of wall space. Theatre walls even used to have posters of upcoming films.These posters were the only and the most popular means to promote upcoming films. Apart from cinema houses, these posters also used to adorn the walls of barber shops, paan shops, public urinals, dhabas ,etc. And publicity was also done by hand push carts with posters on them and the man pushing the cart used to announce the names of films and the actors. Some better off cinema houses used cars with carrier and the posters used to be mounted atop the carrier. They even had full illumination during night hours and announcements were made over a mike. Over time these posters acquired regional elements to suit to the local population. As a “one size fits all”...
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