Abhinav Bhatt’s blog presents a refreshing spin on Indian cinema through minimal posters

This poster of Swathi Muthyam (1986) doesn’t have images of Kamal Haasan and Radhika. An umbrella and a mangalsutra serve as metaphors, summing up the essence of K. Vishwanath’s classic. The creator of the minimal movie poster, Bangalore-based Abhinav Bhatt, designed it after being commissioned by Outlook to do a minimal poster of the film for the magazine’s special edition marking 100 years of Indian cinema.

Abhinav’s blog, http://minimalmoviepostersindia.tumblr.com, boasts of minimal posters of Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi and Bengali posters. The concept of minimal posters isn’t new. What makes his blog stand out is the space being given to regional cinema. “As of now, there are only two Telugu posters on the blog. I want to add a few more to the list,” says Abhinav. These days, when Abhinav goes to watch a film, he is sub-consciously developing ideas for a good poster. “Each time I watch a film, my friends ask me when my next poster is coming up,” he laughs.

Abhinav picks up an image that could be symbolic of the film or a dialogue that surmises the crux of the film. For instance, a moustache is the focal point of the poster of Kamal Haasan’s Thevar Magan (Tamil); the cult line ‘Neenga Nallavara Kettavara? (Are you good or evil?)’ says it all for Nayagan (Tamil).

Designing posters takes a couple of hours but ideating calls for some creative work. Abhinav started the blog in January 2012 with posters designed by him and contributions came in from other minimal movie poster designers. “A few contributors later started their own blogs,” says Abhinav.

One of his posters for Paan Singh Tomar got noticed by Irrfan Khan and Anurag Kashyap left a message on his blog stating that Irrfan wanted the poster. When the buzz on social networks was about Vidya Balan, Abhinav’s poster of Kahaani centred on Bob Biswas and caught the attention of Sujoy Ghosh. Film production companies also started noticing his work and recently, one of his posters was bought by Viacom. Working as a freelancer doesn’t pay much, says Abhinav. His poster for Love Wrinkle Free fetched a neat sum though. He attributes that to its director Sandeep Mohan understanding the nuance of poster making.

Abhinav is aware that minimal posters are not the mainstay of a Bollywood film. “They invest a lot of money and naturally want posters that will have the faces of the actors. Minimal posters can be used as part of the merchandise,” he says.

Abhinav works as a software engineer and works on posters after calling it a day at work. “I reach home at 9 p.m. All this is done later,” he says. The blog, which now works as a pool for designers interested in designing minimal posters, has more than 200 posters.