Jerry Pinto and Sheena Sippy
IBH l Rs 1,800 l pp 216
Author Jerry Pinto and visual consultant Sheena Sippy have compiled a valuable archive and a cinema-and-art lover’s delight. The well-produced Bollywood Posters catalogues Hindi film history via posters and based on genres like History, Mythology, Drama and Romance.
While the emphasis is on film poster images (225 colour illustrations), Pinto writes brief chapters tracing the history of Hindi cinema. He explores various sub-texts and trends, dissecting films through the decades. The posters propel the story, acting as a literary visual device illustrating how the poster captures the over-riding theme or message of a film (e.g 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 brush strokes, as if the poster painter were trying to reproduce the delirium of elm trees on the Gangetic plain”.
One-page sections spotlight sub-genres like comedy, horror, parallel cinema to illustrate how the poster art form, colours and structure took on a unique character. 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, comes at the end of the book.
Each time you flip through Bollywood Posters you make new discoveries like the use of colours, typography, predominance of English text, brush strokes and prominent credit given to the technicians. Some stand out posters include Zehreela Insaan, for its use of Monet-style pointillism; Rocket Tarzan portraying a robot hero carrying a damsel in distress; Bobby’s 60s’ 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.