Wedding invitations, posters and pop art inspired by Bollywood posters are selling for upwards of 500 Euros (Rs 35,000) in France and Switzerland — even as the artists once much in demand in Mumbai struggle to stay relevant.
Take 45-year-old Ramakant Phadke. The JJ School of Art graduate, once well known for his hand-painted movie posters, is struggling to make ends meet.
“When business was good, I used to get over 15 orders a month,” he said, sitting on a worn chair in his 250-sq-ft home-cum-office in Mahim. “Now, I’m lucky if I get two orders over six months.”
He’s offering the kitschy art work at a fraction of the cost, but it’s still his European copycats that are raking it in.
Sarah Loosdregt (38), founder of Paris-based Limona Studio, is making a killing with her customised hand-painted works inspired by Bollywood.
She makes headless cutouts of Gabbar from Sholay, for guests at parties to be photographed behind. And ‘Dream Girl’ style wedding invitations aka Hema Malini and Dharmendra.
“Whenever someone wanted their portraits done in a typical Hindi filmi poster style, we would commission artists from India to paint them,” she said. “The 1970s and 1980s style posters were the most popular.”
Then, Loosdregt met three painters during a 2002 visit to India and learnt the art herself. “We were eager to work with them because the way it was going, we knew this art would soon disappear from the markets — but remain very popular with collectors,” she said.
She was right. Now, websites like thehotspot.com, hindiposter.com and her own limonastudio.com are getting steady orders.
“In India, we do not have any sense of history or preservation,” said renowned film historian Feroze Rangoonwala. “The National Film Archive of India tries to preserve some of the heritage, but we do not maintain it as other countries do.”