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.
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.
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.
Sadly, 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: