Rowdy Rathore celebrates vintage posters

The poster of Akshay Kumar’s ‘Rowdy Rathore’

Akshay Kumar’s ‘Rowdy Rathore’ celebrates the 80s with a hand painted movie poster

Bollywood movies over decades were accompanied by posters that spelled a distinct visual language of cinema. It was these hand paintings that represented the overall personality of Bollywood and allowed one to see our Bollywood icons in an artistic light. Today, as ‘Rowdy Rathore’ released a hand painted poster to announce the film’s release date (June 15, 2012), it clearly salutes the era of cinema that was aligned to art as much as it was to story-telling.

To delve further into this branch of art, we asked Rajesh Devraj, author of ‘The Art of Bollywood’- a book that traces the history of Bollywood posters, to talk on the subject. Devraj strongly believes that hand painted posters were more individualistic and represented the mood of the film. “The colour scheme chosen for the posters would be cleverly co-ordinated with the emotion conveyed and not just for poetic justice. So every angry young action hero would be painted in red, while every actress was splashed with pink and every gloomy scene would have oodles of blue.”

These manually crafted posters lasted till the mid-eighties and were usually painted by artists who would use stills from the movie for reference. While the art form died a couple of decades ago, Devraj believes that it encouraged the artists to create a distinct identity for the films and also gave Bollywood an identity of its own. “Hand-painted art work is more individualistic and artistic. The artist had the liberty to interpret the film in his own style. And today, when digital posters have replaced original hand-painted art work, each time we refer to something that is true to Bollywood, we go back to these posters.”

The confident brush strokes may be restricted to art galleries today but whether digital photographs do better justice to film ads in print is open to argument. To back these creative masterpieces, it can be firmly said that digital photographs have made our posters truly international but we have lost something that was truly our own.

Love vintage posters? Check out our pick of some classic posters

Here are details of Rajesh Devraj's book, 'The Art of Bollywood'