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Delhi’s poster boy

Shanky, a collector of movie posters, is a familiar face only among the dealers of Bollywood’s premier kitsch art.

entertainment Updated: Nov 19, 2010 01:05 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

Shanky, 42, is as unknown as any acclaimed art house film. A collector of movie posters, he is a familiar face only among the dealers of Bollywood’s premier kitsch art. Shanky was a shop assistant at a footwear store in Old Delhi’s Ballimaran. Before that, he was a student at the madarsa in Chandni Chowk’s Fatehpuri Masjid.



Dabbling with photography swept him into his life’s calling. Distributors of black and white films would come to his photo studio in Maujpur, east Delhi, to get their posters touched with flashy colours. In 2006, Shanky shut the studio, threw away his Nikon and jumped into the poster market. He would scavenge the collections of

kabadi-wallas

, who scavenged the throwaway

raddi

from Delhi’s old-money bungalows. He also started making regular trips to Bollywood Bazaar in Mumbai’s Muhammed Ali Road. Five years later, Shanky became the key supplier to the poster sellers of Hauz Khas Village, famous for its curio shops selling old Hindi film posters. A store there sells the poster of say,

Sholay

, a 1975 action drama, for R 1,500. Shanky sells the same for R 300.



Most Hindi films are over the top and that’s why they are popular. For those who swear by Satyajit Ray and Francois Truffaut, films like

Sholay

are symbols of mass-market mindlessness. These highbrow subscribers to Sight & Sound magazine could never sit through three hours of

desi

melodrama. Nevertheless, Hindi films are a cultural phenomenon and if you want to understand India, you have to reckon with these. A snob could de-emotionalise these films and make them his own by artifying their mass appeal. That explains the fascination with Bollywood movie posters.



Every Sunday, Shanky sets up his stall at Daryaganj’s weekly book bazaar, on the pavement opposite the area’s police station. The bigger treasure lies on the fourth floor of Chitli Qabar’s Haveli Azam Khan, where Shanky’s 2,000 posters share a one-room flat with his wife and two sons. His newly married daughter, Tuba, visits him frequently. Lean and boyish, the father of three laughs easily.



Some posters that Shanky showed us were of classics such as

Kagaz ke Phool

(1959),

Ab Dilli Door Nahin

(1957),

Shatranj ke Khiladi

(1977) and

Raja Harishchandra

(1913), India’s first full-length feature film. He also has movie catalogues (including Bollywood adaptation of Shakespeare’s

Hamlet

, with Mala Sinha as Ophelia), photographs of film stars (Mumtaz and Feroze Khan holding hands in swim suits) and a scrapbook filled with film-related news cuttings from newspaper supplements, including

HT City

. Shanky’s visiting card is printed with miniature posters of

Sholay, Mother India

and

Mughal-e-Azam

. His real name is Mohammed Suleman.



Contact him at: 9211-291823