Delhiite Akshar Pathak talks about what led him to give a minimalist touch to Bollywood film posters

The poster of a film frames it not just visually, but thematically too. Consider the poster of of Agneepath for instance, which features Vijay (Hrithik Roshan) and Kancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt) glowering, their faces illuminated, but also separated by a raging fire. The fire climbs past their faces and writes the name of the film. Additionally, the poster details the producer, director, and release date of the film.

But Akshar Pathak’s poster of Agneepath features the face of Kancha Cheena, halved and rendered all the more menacing because only his eyes and ear stud are distinctly visible. The poster — done in a palette of four colours — details just the film’s name and its principal actors.

This poster, the first of over 100, is symptomatic of the minimalist aesthetic that Akshar has introduced to the Bollywood film poster through his facebook page ‘Minimal Bollywood Posters’. Started in January this year, the page has acquired a sizeable following in a span of eight months, reflected in the over 18,000 ‘likes’ it has received.

“The idea of minimalist posters started out as a joke,” says the NIFT graduate who now works as a user interface designer for DSYN, a design and marketing firm. “Now there are 15-20 contributors who send in posters regularly.” These posters relinquish details and accord central status to the most striking element of the film, a familiar image or a resonant dialogue.

For someone who stands in stark opposition to the trends in film posters as we know them today, Akshar’s assessment of them strikes as being sympathetic. “In order to get people into the halls, the posters need to show what the film is about,” he says. “While minimalism is used in advertisements, it cannot work as a promotional tool for films,” he contends.

The films that Akshar has designed posters for only confirm his contention. Going as far as back as Amar Prem (1972) and Zanjeer (1973), the posters he has designed are only of films that have seen theatrical release. While this has been the case because it is only the past that one can be familiar with, can minimalism work equally well if oriented towards the future?

Akshar sounds hopeful, if somewhat contradictory. “Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie Django Unchained has used a minimalist poster. Minimalism can become popular,” he says. Akshar has also been approached by Mira Nair for a poster for her adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s book The Reluctant Fundamentalist. “I have been reading the book and trying to conceptualise the poster. It will require a completely different approach,” he adds.

But he is emboldened by his poster for Mohra (1994) designed without him having seen the film and only on the basis of familiarity with the song “Tip tip barsaa pani”.