Veteran movie poster designer Eswara Rao talks about his journey in the film industry and how technology has impacted the art.
Ask Eswara Rao, one of India's best movie poster designers about his profession, he politely replies: “I'm not someone who's led my life trying to get publicity; I'd rather do my work and go home”.
Making it big
Born in Palakolu, in Andhra Pradesh on February 1, 1938, he completed SSLC and later joined LEE, which he quit due to personal obligations. Driven by passion for art, he moved base to Chennai in 1960, where he joined “Ketha” institute of poster making and worked for several years until he got his break. On February 27, 1967, Bapu, a veteran artist/director hired him to work for his directorial debut, “Sakshi”. The posters of “Sakshi” captured the eyes of “Nagi Reddy”, the then producer of Vijaya Productions, who signed him to work for his Hindi film “Ram aur Shyam”. Soon, several big production houses of the likes of AVM, Gemini, Bharani and Chitralaya signed Eswara Rao aka Eswar for their films.
In a career spanning over three decades, Eswar has worked for more than 2500 films, out of which 1000 films in Telugu, 500 each in Tamil and Kannada and 150 in Hindi and few other languages. To manage high demand, he was assisted by ten to 12 apprentices, with whom he used to work for several days and nights, hardly eating or sleeping. In 1969, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, along with his cabinet ministers visited Eswar at his T.Nagar residence and requested him to do a portrait of late Chief Minister Annadurai. He was later handed over a certificate of appreciation for the portrait, in a ceremony presided over by late Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, which was signed by her and Kalaignar.
In 1971, he was honoured at Vijayawada by Akkineni Nageswara Rao in a function organised by A.P Film Distributors. In 1987, he was invited to USSR by Indo Soviet Cultural Society to study the nuances of their poster making techniques, and later to Hollywood in 1999. He was also recently nominated for a special category in the “Guinness Book of World Records”, for being the only individual to have designed more than 2000 film posters.
When quizzed about his work, he says; he used to make 50 plus designs for every film, which was used by producers at various promotional levels. He was also required to make different designs every week for the same film and special designs too, to celebrate 50th or 100th day of a film.
All the posters were manually done with the help of his assistants, taking approximately two months for a film; he used to do 10 films a month. His art works and designs of “Samaj ko Badal Dalo” were published in “The Art of Bollywood” by Taschen publications at London and Los Angeles.
Off late, he keeps himself busy by working on his soon to be released book, which promises to bring forth developments in poster designing between 1931 and 2000. Since his retirement in 2000, Eswar has been occasionally involved in designing, as he feels left out and one among numerous artists who are on the verge of extinction, after computers took over the industry.
At 73, Eswar feels that artists like him and their ephemeral works have been presented unevenly, with shoddy re-prints and re-release posters through computers. And ask him about the advancement in technology, he quickly responds; computers minimise human effort, however the impact one gets when you do a poster manually disappears whilst working on computer. He concludes by saying; if you have only five seconds to capture someone's attention, you must do something that is strikingly new.
Some of the films that he worked for:
Namnadu (Vijaya Productions)
Murattu Kaalai (AVM Productions)
Haricharan is a MBA graduate.