I suppose I was in my teens, a student at university, when I first noticed the incredible array of Bollywood film posters pinned-up in neighborhood video stores, take-aways and corner shops. These posters were always dynamic, their frames filled with a whole opera of activity, usually depicting heroes with guns, sunglasses, cigarettes or pipes, sweaty villains with beards, beautiful women fighting or looking demure, all against a background of cars, helicopters, jets, and giant, flame-rippled explosions. This was real must-see action, and my surface impressions started me off watching Bollywood movies.
Often these films did not live up to the promise of their fabulously painted advertising posters, and many were slight imitations of American films, but there was always something of beauty and craft that made these movies worth watching.
Though “Bollywood” is a term is often misused to describe all of Indian cinema, it actually stands for the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai. Bollywood produces an incredible array of movies, a selection of which can be seen from the following array of posters.
As these images show the golden age of the Bollywood poster artist, who spent time painting an original image, which inspired me and millions of others to watch the films, has sadly long gone. In this digital age, the once beautiful hand-painted posters have given way to the westernized photographic reproduction, usually featuring a George Clooney look-a-like, or glossy latex superhero. Where once there was mystery, beauty and intrigue in these painted posters, there is now just a kind of homogenized advertising which could be selling anything.