An exhibition of film posters at the ongoing BIFFes, predominantly of Hindi cinema, tells you the story of the films and speak volumes for themselves

You see them every day on your way to work, pasted onto a wall, beaming down from a larger-than-life hoarding, and wonder, what the film will be like, going by the film posters you see. While they may just be simple publicity tools for a film, there’s a lot to be gleaned from the evolution of these works of art.

A collection of 100 film posters are on display at the poster exhibition on Indian Cinema at the Bengaluru International Film Festival, in an attempt to mark 100 years of Indian cinema. The exhibition is presented by the National Film Archives of India from its collection, and DAVP, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Put together in chronologically, starting with the silent film Sati Savitri (1927), the 100 posters will help one trace the kind of films that came out of India, and their subjects, over the years till you arrive at Fashion (2008). While you can see the beginning being dominated by mythologicals, there’s a quick shift to social issues, with films that dealt with widow remarriage, untouchability and poverty. The subject of films in the 1940s shifted to nationalism and then Partition. Radical women-centric films in the 1950s like Patita look at notions of purity, chastity, virginity and create the stereotype the woman as the one making sacrifices with the film Aurat Teri Yehi Kahani.

You can observe the changes of who or what was in focus in these posters, how they’ve transformed from simple hand-painted portraits to complex printed images. The flurry of fonts, colours, words, the kitschy art work… all tell their own story for those with time to see. Many of the earlier Hindi film posters have the titles also boldly painted in Urdu.

Each poster is accompanied by a small note on the film. Some film stills have also been included among the panels. Alam Ara, (1931) India’s first sound film has poster that advertised the system that brought sound to the film — Tanar Sound System. The poster of the iconic Guide (1965) proclaims along side the image of Dev Anand and Waheeda Rahman “Processed & Printed in New York”. The 1971 film Uphaar starring Jaya Bhaduri and based on Rabindranath Tagore’s story Samaapti, also has a painting of Tagore on the poster! What also stands out is how beautiful actor Smita Patil looked on each of the posters she appeared in and how most of them use her standalone pictures.

Also in the collection are posters of iconic films in regional languages — Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Assamese, Marathi, Rajasthani and Gujarati. The posters of Kannada films Gejje Pooje, Phaniamma, Bara, Taayi Saheba, Dweepa figure in the collection.

The exhibition is on at the Department of Information, Infantry Road, and is on view till January 2, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entry is free. You do not need a BIFFES pass to see his one.

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