When we travel by a bus or a car or ride a two-wheeler or when we
go on foot, there is one
'stationary' thing that just does not miss our eyes. It is the wall
poster. A hoarding placed on top of a huge building may miss your
attention. But, a cinema poster on either side of a road just does
not. A cinema poster is a silent advertiser, and yet the one that
draws the crowds to the cinema theatre.
A poster also gives the curious onlookers' i.e., the 'prospective' audience some idea about
a film, well ahead of its release. No one exactly knows the birthplace
as well as the date of birth of a poster. But, a poster is not one
preserved for poster-ity. Its life span is as uncertain as that
of the film it publicises about.
One day you see a poster of 'Azaad' and the next day you will find
(not necessarily to your surprise) that it has been replaced by
a poster of 'Nuvve kaavaali'. In the good old days, a cinema poster
was a regular 'graceful' acceptor of cattle-dung when the fans associations
of top bracket heroes preferred to air their dislike of the 'rival'
hero by 'profusely' hurling dung at the 'gullible' poster. Those
were the days when there were very few newspapers and fewer literates
in the State. And the wall poster was the obvious choice for the
distributors of a film to publicise a preview of a film. It is like
a pharos, which guides the mariners on the high seas. There were
days when wall poster was the only way of communication. There were
no TV channels and fewer newspapers. The reach of news papers was
also to some towns. Neither the papers nor the villagers bothered
about each other those days. Theatre managers used to paste posters
on both sides of a bullock cart or a horse-cart and make it go round
the villages and towns, blaring out the songs of the films. Some
times even few good announcers or singers used to be sent along
with the cart to draw crowds. Gone were the days of bullock carts.
There are now newspapers reaching every nook and corner of the land
and countless TV channels to send the message of the film producer
across. But the importance of the poster has not diminished.
The poster plays as vital a role as that of the story or the Director
of the film. It has to give the audience a glimpse of the story
line but yet conceal the suspense part of it. You will know whether
the film is a Historical, Mythological, Suspense, Horror or a love
triangle only through the poster. The entire world of film production
has given importance to the art of poster designing and fine-tuned
it over the years. Indian cinema is second to none in poster designing.
One can understand the significance of poster designing by the fact
that Satyajit Ray personally designed the posters of some of his
films. Great directors like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihlani, Girish
Karnad and others sit with the artist and have the design made to
their requirement. Artists have to strive, to satisfy both the directors
who have good taste as well as the ordinary audience at the same
time. Telugu film Industry has also contributed its mite to the
development of poster designing in the country. Several stalwarts
made their mark in the designing industry. T.V.S. Sarma, Bapu, Ketha,
Eswar, Bharani, Saragam (Satyanarayana, Rama Rao and Gangadhar -
who later got separated and started their own studios) Brahmanandam,
Dawood are some of the outstanding artists who contributed their
mite to the emergence of the modern poster designing technique.
Interestingly none of these famous men had any formal education
or for that matter even formal training in the art. Bapu, the legendary
artist, lampoonist and film director has revolutionised the art
of lettering in posters. He has introduced a simple manuscript style
into Telugu posters throwing the traditional well chiseled round
letters into oblivion. Now the Bapu style of lettering is being
religiously followed for even the film credits. Even computer software
experts introduced the Bapu script in their packages.
In the earlier days different styles of lettering used to be adopted
for different films. Very ornamental and decorative style of letters
used to be written for the credits of historical and mythological
films. Same lettering used to appear even on wall posters.
The style of designing also had undergone a change of sorts over
the years. During the early days, the producers and directors used
to insist that the posters would have to depict the entire star
cast of the film. Now the stress is more on the theme, the message
and the purpose of the film. This is the reason why you might find
some of the old posters a little funny. But they did serve the purpose
they were created for - drawing crowds to the cinema. T.V.S. Sarma
and Ketha (studio Ketha and Ketha arts) were the pioneers of film
publicity industry. But it was Ketha who was an institution, churning
out artist after artist from his art 'factory'. The later day popular
designers like Satyanarayana,Gangadhar, Rama Rao,
countless others were his disciples. Ketha once worked for the films of 'difficult to impress' legend N.T.
Rama Rao. There was a time when producers of an NTR film had to employ only the
technicians approved by him. And NTR never gave his nod to any one before a microscopic assessment. Ketha was one of the lucky few who
enjoyed the confidence of the great artiste. The making of a poster offers an interesting story. The producer and
director of a film are generally preoccupied with the shooting schedules
and find little time to ponder over the finer aspects of a poster. Only
after completion of the film do they turn their attention to the publicity aspects, which include designing of the
posters. But the designer has to be on his toes all the time and plan his publicity
strategy ever since he is briefed of the storyline of a film. He has to
regularly go to the studio, watch the shooting, take a look at the album
made by the still photographers and satisfy himself that there are good
stills, useful for publicity designs. If not, he has to request the producer for a special photo session every now and then to get relevant
photographs for use in posters and news paper publicity designs. An artist is not only told the story but also given some idea of the
different characters of the film. This information enables the artist to
set his priorities right while planning the design. Keeping the poster publicity in view, still photographer takes
photographs at the end of each shooting session. In the good olden days, even separate call sheets were given by the
artistes for photo sessions. This is no longer possible as most artistes
are busy, attending one shoot in the morn and another in the afternoon.
The publicity designer has to take care not to expose certain getups of
the artistes to the audience, that may reveal the suspense of the film.
The artist also should know about the visage of the lead stars and suitable angle for a photograph. He has to avoid such angles as
they may de-glamorize and thus embarrass the artistes. Hence the publicity artiste is shown the film separately.
The publicity artist first draws miniature rough sketches of the posters
and gets the approval of the producer and director. In some cases, even
popular heroes insist on seeing the designs. No heroine however is known to have exercised this 'privilege'.
After the design is approved, the designer orders the stills quoting the
number given by the still photographer to each still and specifying the
size of the print required. After the prints are received, they are cut out as per the
specifications of the design and the background done up in colour using
some times a brush and some times a spray gun. The artist shows his
creativity in doing the background. The pasting of the stills on the
hard board and the lettering work is generally done by the assistants of
the artist, while the designer himself does the background.
The emblem and the type of lettering are decided by the director, producer and the publicity artist. For the past several years, publicity
artists have been producing exotic and eye-catching 'spectacles' in their field.
The poster of 'Bahudurapu Baatasari' (which literally means 'a man who
sets out on a long journey') stands out as a good example of this. When
the poster was planned, it was suggested that the shadow of ANR's figure
should be shown to have cast a long shadow, indicating that the man had
to travel long distances, justifying the title of the film. The publicity artist plans the titles of the film and also endeavors to
show glimpses of special effects and graphics if any, on the poster.
Apart from Ketha, Gangadhar,Eswar,Rama Rao Arts, Ajay, Dawod, Lanka Bhasker A.S.Murthy, are the leading publicity artists both at Madras and
Hyderabad. The next time you look at a street-site cinema poster, have a heart to
appreciate the creativity and hard work that have gone into the making
of it. And, fans of heroes, please make sure that you do not fling dung
at the wall posters, in a fit of hatred towards the 'rival heroes'.