Glamorous and provocative, the film posters of Bollywood have had a long and glorious history, which is only now being given the attention and recognition it richly deserves.On the streets of Mumbai, the film poster acts as an attractive, instant invitation to the pleasures of Bollywood. It is also a dynamic fusion, where the world’s most democratic art form meets one of the most exciting movie genres known.
The old posters often featured warm-red colors and princesslike actresses gazing into the air. The new posters mimic today's American movie posters.Posters depict Bollywood cinema's commitment to themes of social melodrama and mass entertainment. They also demonstrate with a clarity otherwise not grasped by the lay viewer that Bollywood cinema is its own richest archive.
Within these large themes of the posters however are a number of sub themes — the tussle between family honour and romantic love, the conflict between the rural countryside and the new urban metropolis, the rise of teenage love, female sexuality and the courtesan — that have dominated Hindi cinema.
For example, the posters of Anarkali (1953) and Aan (1952) draw attention to the themes of love and honour, as well as to the conditions of post-independence India (Aan) and India's pre-colonial Mughal history.
The posters are also an excellent testimony to the history of modern Indian art — the influence of art deco in the 1930s, graphics from the 1960s and 1970s to modern digital technology in the new millennium.
Finally, the posters tell the story of women's empowerment in India. This is most clear as we contrast the images of Nargis as virtuous Mother India in the film poster of Mehboob Khan's blockbuster of that name from the 1950s......
Sadly, today, modern digital billboards have swept away the old handmade posters. Displayed at every downtown theater of Mumbai, the new posters are slick, but some argue they have lost much of their Indian charm.
Artists who specialized in poster painting used to wok day and night because every Thursday a new movie would come out......but now they only paint one picture per month. While Bollywood posters are still considered disposable in India, they are now cherished abroad. In the 1970s, once a movie was out of theaters, the posters were trashed. Today, these paintings are collected in some of the world's most prestigious museums, like the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Here is a great read on the demand for hand painted Bollywood posters in France!
All images via the World Wide Web!