The concept of hand-painted poster arrived in India with the cinema itself. So the story of poster art, from hand- painted to offset printing to digitalization, is a story of a gradual fading of this beautiful art and craftsmanship, which in many ways, articulates the journey of cinema in lndia itself. From hand-painted posters with stars in it beautiful paintbrush expressions to total mechanization in the digital era, where one has to just capture as frame from the film and then blow it up leaves nothing to is imagination or creativity. In the 50s and 60s of the twentieth century the posters told a story in the new millennium they are digital wonders without a soul or a space for creative expression involving the paintbrush. Balkrishna Vaiya’s studio in Dada; Mumbai and many others, attracted crowds because the film stars, in their fancy cars but without the now infamous retinue, arrived at the small atelier to pose in person. Their portraits were celebrated, not just in posters but also in the living rooms.
From time to time one hears of an enthusiast in Mumbai and elsewhere with whom collecting tinselville trivia has been a passion. There are stories of obsessed Indian movie lovers the world over who have archives of materials on their idols. SM M Ausaja has been one of them. Not only is he a diehard Amitabh Bachchan fan, who came to Mumbai from Lucknow after a management degree, and began with collecting the millennium star’s photographs, posters, and trinkets while handling TV software production to make a living, but also become a huge collector himself. Ausaja now has more than 5000 posters - mostly hand• painted lithographic prints — from l93l to the present, from which the present selection of some milestone films has been carefully made.
Nostalgia redeemed from a glorious past. A visual delight for cinema lovers.
S M M Ausaja began his romance with cinema with Manmohan Desai’s Suhaag in 1978, at the age of eight. He Studied at Methodist High School, Kanpur and Colvin Taluqdars College, Lucknow, before completing his post graduation in management at Lucknow and moving over to Mumbai. With television software production as a job, Ausaja also pursued his hobby of collecting Hindi Cinema memorabilia besides occasionally writing on cinema.
Also dubbed by the media as the country’s youngest film historian. Ausaja has also directed documentaries on Lata Mangeshkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Hema Malini that were telecast on prime-time television. Ausaja stays in Mumbai with his daughter Anahita and wife Mona, a Creative Director with a media company.
The only thing do not like about this book is the use of the word to describe the Indian Film Industry, in its title. I find it degrading to our fraternity and to the hundreds of those who have contributed so immensely to it, over so many years.
The clever introduction of this word into the Oxford dictionary has now dignified its reference for posterity. So be it. S M M Ausaja has token upon himself a most tedious and worthy cause — that of the preservation of history in Hindi Cinema. It is tedious because it requires a deep and devoted knowledge of the subject and years of dedicated research and labour in documenting all that films in India have on offer.
It is worthy because the ethos of preservation has never been a consideration, leave aside a most deserved priority, in our country. With such a vast varied and timeless culture we have, as a nation, fallen short. It is therefore extremely commendable that a book of this nature has taken shape and that its author and creator went through such pains, as I am sure he must have, to bring to all the lovers of Hindi Cinema this wonderful and owe inspiring kaleidoscope of our valued existence.
To possess within the folds of your hands an object of desire, from Zubeida and K L Saigal, from Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani to the heartthrobs of today, is a remarkable achievement. Most of us have felt pleasure by holding just one, of them, provided of course, if even that one is available. Posters have been an integral and the most important ingredient in the realm of information and marketing of films. They tell us within the brevity o: square metres what the product is all about and why it is essential for us to buy that coveted ticket to find our way into the confines of this darkness hall, where paper and painting shall transform magically into moving images.
And over the years this innovative technology of imparting information to us has gone through several interesting stages of development. How must a face be used, which posture and in what dimensions, must have gone through an intricate process, to finally conclude in a form sufficient to entice the prospective cinegoer. The hours of deliberation that ensued before reaching a final approval, the choice of colours, the words of description, the credits, all a most fascinating exercise in creativity. Indeed, almost on par with the effort required in the making of the film itself.
And now to find all the hours and efforts of myriad creators in one book is obviously awe inspiring, but to me a most honourable act. For Ausaja to have thought it out in this manner is a great service that he has rendered to the Film Industry. A service that shall be remembered by generations of lovers of cinema the world over.
I must therefore express immense gratitude that S M M Ausaja gave me the privilege of being a part of this book, not within the covers that you shall encounter, but as a commentator on his very sincere and dedicated contribution.
I remember when I was eight - in standard IV of Methodist English School, Shahjahanpur - the entire class was taken on a tour to Agra and in the evening we were allowed to see a movie, It was Manmohan Desai’s Suhuag, and the theatre was packed with a receptive crowd. As a street urchin on the 70 mm screen and kicked and forced to guzzle country liquor by a dirty old man, there was universal silence in the auditorium with compassion for the kid’s predicament. As the boy melodramatically transformed into Amitabh Bachchan, the silence gave way to jubilant applause, as if this was what they were actually awaiting. It’s a moment of cinema that began my affair with Hindi films in general and Bachchan in particular Three years later I began collecting my favorites silt’s memorabilia which included magazines, postcards and posters. As I matured with time, I expanded my collection to accommodate all the interesting Hindi films. And with the collection I began to understand the journey of Hindi cinema from 1931 onwards, not lust visually through posters but also through me various write ups over the years on the people who have made an impact on the audience, both on and off screen. This book is the first step towards shoring my understanding of the magic of Hindi films with you.
Posters fascinate me. I would stare at them endlessly and the artistic representation of the stars would intrigue me. Poster art in Hindi cinema could never win an art historian’s attention, at least till the mid nineties. Kitsch is what it would be generally referred to. The awareness spread in the mid-nineties as auction houses and private collectors saw the potential of Hollywood posters at auctions abroad. The brush-stroke art that appeared in the publicity material of films nil early eighties was belatedly celebrated.
When I soy publicity material, I mean media such as posters, block-prints, song-synopsis booklets, slides, lobby cards, and even LP record covers. There were artistes — poster designers - who specialized in publicity art and they were often very popular within the producers’ community, though somewhat anonymous to the rest of the world. There is a difference between a poster-designer and a hoarding painter. The poster designer is the creative brain behind the visuals people see on the film’s advertising media, while a hoarding painter usually enlarges any one poster design to the hoarding size proportionate. Hindi films arrived in 1931 with Ardeshir Irani’s Alum Arcs. Since the thirties there have been several transitions in the art of poster designs. The film-s of were largely theatrical in presentation; therefore the emphasis on elaborate costumes can be seen in the characters depicted on the posters. Also, cultured families had attached a stigma of perversion to films, the ‘family’ audience reluctantly ventured in theatres. To combat this social resistance perhaps the producers focused on mythology, history, fantasy, religion, and folk-tale inspired films. It helped in expanding their audience base. Therefore, the posters were full of flamboyant costumes and the biggest success stories belonged to these genres. Notably, lndrasabha (1932), Alibaba aur 40 Chor (1932) Ayodhya ka Raja (1932), Chandidas (1934), Ramayan (1934), Anarkali (1935), Hunterwali (1935), Seeta Haran (1936), Vidyapati (1937), Alladin and the Wonderful Lamp (1938), Gopal Krishna (1938) and Sohrab Modi’s immortal historical Pukar (1939) had visually appealing posters, full of elaborate costumes.
The forties and the fifties saw the reign of superstar Ashok Kumar and his natural acting style, giving films that highlighted social issues. The family dramas, romantic musicals, socio-political sagas, and action/stunt films emerged and overshadowed the costume-dramas. As a result, more profile—driven posters arrived on the walls. Aural (1940), Nartaki (1940), Bahen (1941), Aadmi (1 941), Roll (1942), kismet (1943), Anmol Ghadi (1946), Dard (1947) Jugnu (1947), Aug (1948), Andaz (1949) and Mahal (1949) are some of the most successful films of the forties. The posters were simpler and the faces were given prominence over costumes. Ashok Kumar ruled the box office with K I. Saigal and Prithviraj Kapoor not being far behind. Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand had emerged on the horizon; their faces were given more weight than the other players in the film for purely commercial reasons. In the fifties the same trend continued. Babul(1950), Bawre Nain(1950), Jogan(1950), Awara(1951), Baazi(1951), Daag(1952), Aah(1953), Do Bigha Zamin(1953). Devdas (1955), Chori Chori (1956), Mother India (1957), Pyaasa (1957), Anari (1959) and kagaz ke Phool (1959) made waves as socially relevant films. Baazi and Kagaz ke Phool were attempts to elevate the Hindi films to the level of technical finesse seen in Hollywood. The posters indicated what — in store for the viewer. For example, in Bahen, a film about a brother’s obsessive possessiveness about his sister, the sister was shown dwarfed under the large shadow of her tall brother! kismet being a noir film with a near negative protagonist, Ashok Kumar held millions captive under his revolver as the film smashed records across the country to emerge as the biggest success story till the release of ShoIay! In Devdas, Dilip Kumar and his alcohol bottle on the posters took the viewer to the hero’s self defeating journey of love and betrayal.
Few things changed as we reach the sixties. We move the focus from social issues towards music and romance. Sixties was an era of romantic musicals embedded even in epics like Mughal-e-Azam (1960). The film’s dialogue played as big a role in its success as Naushad’s immortal compositions. The posters were distinctively ostentatious as we saw in most historical, but the film was essentially a romantic one. Junglee (1961), Sahib Bibi our Gulam (1962), Dosti (1964), Kashmir ki Kali (1964), Guide(1965), Waqt (1965), Teesri Manzil(1966), Jewel Thief(1967), Ram our Shyam(1967) and Aradhana(1969)were all musical success stories despite their varied plots. The posters began to highlight music; in fact the reprint posters had the hit songs prominently written on lop to indicate to the viewer that the film has hit music.
The seventies unleashed the era of the Angry Young Man — as Amitabh Bachchan rose like a meteor and emerged as the biggest ever star. In three decades of unparalleled success he was called ‘Star of the Millennium’ in a global opinion poll commissioned by the BBC. Romance and music took a back seat as the posters began to display a variety of action images — from guns, machine-guns and knives to poses of stars in combat positions. Such was the extent of Amitabh’s influence, that even the established romantic stars were seen holding guns in the posters — viz. Dev Anand (Johny Mera Naam, Des Pardes, Lootmaar), Rajendra Kumar (Dora Aur Kala), Dharmendra ( Yaadon ki Baarat, Pratiggya, Hukumat), Dilip Kumar (Shakti Vidhaata, and Duniya). Amitabh’s anger simmered on posters from Jan jeer and Deewaar to Sholay Don, Muqaddor ka Sikandar, Kaala Patthar, Laawaris, Kaalia, Coolie, Aakhree Raasta, Agneepath, Hum, Khuda Gawah, Lal Badshal till we reach Sarkar.
In the thirties, forties and fifties, there were lithographic posters. The lithographic press gave way to the offset press and posters of the seventies and the eighties were mostly offset prints. The nineties popularised the digital press. Consequently, by the end of the eighties, the era of hand painted posters ended, replaced by the printed collage of images. With the end of the hand-painted posters, came the realisation of treating the originals as pieces of art, thereby making the hand-painted poster of any film from the thirties to the eighties as an object of art. The craze for collecting such posters began in the nineties and has since gained momentum in the new millennium. Today posters are being sold at art houses, galleries and premium auction houses globally.
It’s impossible to accommodate all the significant films of Hindi cinema in one book. There are many films which deserved to be included but the space constraint has restricted portraying a chosen few. (are has been taken in giving the most authentic information for each film in terms of credits, famous songs and awards.
This book is in honour of all the unsung poster designers who made the poster art of the country immortal with their valuable contribution. We need to appreciate the designers and painters who have given us such delightful images over the past seven decades. The foremost designer who ruled for three decades was D D Neroy. And there were many talented names and entities like Tilak, Diwakar Karkare, Mulgaonkar, DR Bhosle, Pamart, Pandit Ram Kumar Sharma, S M Pandit, Faiz, M S Kerke, C Mohan, Prithvi Soni, J P Singhal, A Rauf, Praduman, Thakur Vitankar, Laxman, Art View, Manohar, Loombart, B R Gulati, Samarth, S Vilas, Yashwant, Shrikant, Vasant A J Art, Bakshi, Meera Prabhu, Studio Shashikala, KS Likhari, Vishnu, Studio Link, Tulika, Rehman Arts, Adil, Vasudeo, Shashi Naugekar, Tirath, Ellora Arts, Aruna Arts, Art View, J V Naihankar, SN Apte, Elegant, A R Pitale, AAA, J B Dikshit, Filmistan Art Department, Studio Bhatia, Expert Eyes Meghart, S Rehman, Naresh & Co, Roy Arts, Zafar, Shah, B Vishwanath, M R Achrekar, Miralkar, Boskey, K Nataraj, 0 Y Pradhan, N Chitaar, Kala Studio, o Gopal, T D Kar and many more. These are names of exceptionally gifted artistes and companies that have depicted the visual journey of Indian culture on posters over the decades. They are largely unsung, and we need to applaud them if we celebrate Hindi cinema. This book is a small, humble step in that direction.
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