A film's poster is its first introduction to the potential audience. Not so long ago, Punjabi films seemed to undermine the concept of having an impressive first look, if their posters are anything to go by -mostly including larger than life faces of angry Punjabi jatts in kurta chadras, with gandasa in one hand and the other hand busy twirling the handlebar moustache.
If rustic village scenes dominated most film posters, then printed film stills were shown on others, while many had a village belle smiling coyly into the camera, dressed in an outrageously gaudy dress and over-the-top make-up. Those were the times when Punjabi films had a blink-and-miss presence in theatres as well as in the minds of the audience.
Switch to the present day film promotions in the region - there are multi-city visits by the cast, road shows, contests, wacky posters and interesting teasers - all of which have lent a new lease of life to Punjabi films that now run to packed houses.
The market for Punjabi films opened up only a couple of years ago, with films such as Mel Kara De Rabba, Jihne Mera Dil Luteya, Dharti and Yaar Anmulle to the very recent, Jatt & Juliet. Interestingly, the latter, which turned out to be the biggest grosser in the history of Punjabi films, struck a chord with the audiences via its poster. The cartoon of a turbaned hero tagged as 'Dangar', and of a feisty heroine tagged as 'Dumna', were both amusing and attractive.
Speaking about the publicity designs for Jatt & Juliet, Adeeb Sheikh, head of Thirsty Fish, a Mumbai-based film promotion company, says, "Designing publicity campaigns is fun because we get to play around with elements and can be creative. We get a clear tip-off from the makers of the film, and Punjabi stars are easy to work with. We used doodles for the posters of Jatt & Juliet to introduce the audience to the characters in the film, a new concept which had not even been used in Bollywood so far." Adeeb is now designing posters for Pinky Mogewali, for which he is using symbols of fire, water and earth.
Allocation of hefty budgets makes a huge difference to the creation of a film's first look. This is confirmed by Manoj Zore, owner of Ideas & Dreams, a company that has designed posters for all the Punjabi films directed by Manmohan Singh. "Punjabi films cater to a global audience and require a global appeal. So, makers now realise the importance of setting out a separate budget for film promotion. This allows us to experiment with different themes and elements and go hi-tech with posters, which are multi-layered and come in series.
We can now go in for photo shoots at good locales, all thanks to young directors such as Mandeep Singh, Navaniat Singh and Anurag Singh, who are bringing about this change," says Manoj. He adds that he is now designing an 'out of the box' concept for upcoming film, Dil Tainu Karda Hai Pyaar. Sources say financial figures that are dedicated to film promotions are at par with Bollywood, starting at R70,000 and going up to lakhs.
Social networking sites too have become an important medium of film promotion. Sukhcharan Singh Sidhu from Tingling Designs in Ludhiana, has been designing websites for films for the last six years. "Film promotions via websites are very effective because they reach across a lot of people. Viewers can download pictures and music, interact with the film's cast, and look at news bits about the film," avers he. Sidhu is now designing websites for upcoming Punjabi films Pinky Mogewali, Tu Mera 22 Main Tera 22 and Dil Tainu Karda Hai Pyar.