Bollywood Art

June 8, 2011 | Alyson

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You've surely heard by now that the International Indian Film Academy is holding its awards ceremony here in Toronto from June 23rd to 25th.  This is a very big deal. The IIFA holds its awards ceremony in a different city each year. Upwards of 700,000 million people world-wide watch the event on television. It could bring  tens of thousands of people to the city.

Worthy of at least a couple of blog posts here.

Mother inda poster

I thought I'd start by championing an art form that may be underappreciated here in the West - the hand-painted film poster. Underappreciated and now largely vanished, replaced by digital images  - a symbol of India's rapid modernisation.


Poster art is as old as the cinema in India, but starting in the 1920s  Hindi cinema developed its own distinctive visual language and produced its most magnificent images.While Hollywood posters switched from illustrated to photographic images very  early, the painted image in India remained for most of the 20th century. Poster artists, unfettered by the the film industry, were left to interpret their designs freely according to their own style and imagination. The result was a unique and highly individual art form.



                                                                                                                          Don with A Bachchan


Check out this poster for Don, a 1978 film. That's heartthrob and film icon, Amitabh Bachchan in the upper left corner. Not exactly flattering. 

 Can you imagine control freak, Tom Cruise allowing his image to be freely interpreted in such a way?  In this age of stylists, PR people and Internet reputation management, the hand-painted poster of Indian cinema is wonderfully authentic.

I also find the minimal text that characterises these posters adds to their appeal.  In a country with almost two dozen official languages, I guess a picture is worth more than a thousand words.





 SNational geographic bollywoodadly, progress has meant that mass-producing digital posters is now cheaper than employing individual artists.  National Geographic's William Albert Allard took this photograph in Mumbai outside of a once-thriving poster artist's studio.

But interest in this art remains, as these posters are now highly prized by collectors. So, perhaps it's not completely lost 

If you'd like to learn more about Bollywood movie posters, the recently published The Art of Bollywood covers this topic in great detail, highlighting some of the better-known artists, although many talented artists were unsung. It is still on order for Toronto Public Library (apologies accompanied by a plea for patience), but you can still place a hold on it.

In the meantime, you can see some of these original works in person.  The Art Gallery of Mississauga is  currently running an exhibit called  Picture House: The Art of Bollywood which runs until July 10th.

Here are some samples of this vibrant art form:


Devta poster    Free love poster

Jadoo poster