Varsha Pillai on CNN-IBN
From yesteryear hand painted canvases to the contemporary
glossy backlit banners, Bollywood film posters have
certainly come a long way.
Now there is a book…dedicated solely to Bollywood
posters over the decades.
Chronicling this pictorial history of film posters are
writers Jerry Pinto and Sheena Sippy with a book simply
titled Bollywood Posters.
So feast your eyes on this vibrant, sketchy journey
from yesteryear posters of films we did not even know
exist; to popular action, romance and drama titles,
they all figure in this one.
They've also positioned original and remakes against
each other for the effect.
Basically, it’s the writers way of sustaining
and documenting some of those images that remain etched
in public memory, but might get washed away due of passage
Pinto says, "Posters are part of our visual sensibility;
for instance, that Don poster of Amitabh running.
We know that poster; it's part of our aesthetic sensibilities."
So from the technicolour designs of the 1950s to the
contemporary aesthetic sensibilities, the 250 odd posters
in this book speak a lot about the work that went behind
procuring and restoring them.
Sippy says, "The exercise was multifold, I worked
on some original posters, some of them were brittle
and needed a lot of work, some we got from the archives
which thankfully were in slides form.
The writers have their own favourites.
While Pinto says he finds the Bobby poster
psychedelic which spoke of the new youth cinema that
had emerged from RK's banner, Sippy feels Utsav’s
sensibility is beautiful."
If you are a true blue Bollywood film buff, then perhaps
you wouldn't want to miss getting this colourful book
for your collection.
Udita Jhunjhunwala in Indian Express
The latest film-related coffee table book on offer
from publishers India Book House stands out for two
main reasons: the research entailed in compiling this
collection of Bollywood posters and the wonderful production
of the book itself. Author Jerry Pinto and visual consultant
Sheena Sippy’s large format book serves primarily
as a valuable archive of the history of Hindi films
through the artistry of its posters and publicity material.
A tantalising image of Sharmila Tagore pointing a gun
from the poster of Kewal Mishra’s Do Shatru enjoys
pride of place on the cover.
Bollywood Posters traces the journey of Hindi films
using posters as a visual device. Through the chapter
divisions based on genres like history, mythology, drama,
fantasy, crime and romance, the authors attempt to portray
how the poster conveys the over-riding theme or message
of a film (for example, Lagaan) or how, in the case
of the poster of Jis Desh Men Ganga Behta Hai, there
is “a peculiar Van Gogh quality in its brushstrokes,
as if the poster painter were trying to reproduce the
delirium of elm trees on the Gangetic plain.”
While the emphasis is on film poster images (225 colour
illustrations), Pinto writes brief chapters tracing
the history of Hindi cinema and explores various sub-texts
and trends, aided by posters. The book is also peppered
with single-page sections spotlighting sub-genres like
comedy, horror and parallel cinema to illustrate how
the poster art form, colours and structure took on a
unique character. The layout interestingly juxtaposes
posters of the old and new, as in the two versions of
Don and the English and Hindi language posters of Kahin
Aar Kahin Paar.
Unfortunately, the most interesting and relevant chapter,
‘The art of the poster’, which touches upon
the challenges of hand-painted posters, their demise
and advent of computer- generated imagery plus mention
of the most celebrated poster painter, MF Husain, comes
at the end of the book. But then again, the book is
not text-heavy and you are more likely to leaf through
the book and scrutinise the imagery a few times before
venturing into reading the chapters.
Each time you flip through Bollywood Posters, you make
new discoveries like the use of colours, typography,
and the predominance of English text, brushstrokes and
prominent credit given to the technicians. Some standout
posters include Zehreela Insaan, for its use of pointillist
style; Rocket Tarzan portraying a robot hero carrying
a damsel in distress; Bobby’s ’70s free
love and flower power artistry; and Kidar Kapoor’s
Toofan with its priceless tagline: “A gay romantic
swashbuckling entertainer”. Our reaction to the
line and the image of the masked lead actor in a fencing
pose is a reflection of changing times.
The black-and-white posters of Shashi Kapoor’s
Utsav, with a single multi-colour element, are truly
artistic. Of contemporary films, the noir Manorama Six
Feet Under and a poster of Rang De Basanti with black
ink drawings and orange typeface stand out. Look out
also for the image of A R Kardar’s Shahjehan (1946).
Pinto describes the poster saying that it “takes
it cues from what the designer assumed was the Mughal
atelier, stylising the faces until there was no resemblance
to the actors”.
While the book laments the overriding influence of marketing
and perfect representations today, it remains a reminder
of the lost charm of hand-painted posters, the less-than-perfect
rendition of the cast, and is a wonderful catalogue
of the passion within Bollywood. Bollywood Posters is
like walking through a film museum or art gallery —
it is a sumptuous visual treat for cinema and art lovers.
By Jerry Pinto and Sheena Sippy
Publisher: India Book House