Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
An exhibition of Bollywood film posters opened recently in an art gallery in New York City. “We believe this is the first time such an exhibition is being held by a commercial art gallery,” said Roseanne Bergeron, a spokesperson for Tamarind Art.
The exhibition, which encompasses over 30 mass-produced posters from the 1960s to the 1980s, is being held in midtown Manhattanuntil the first week of May. The posters represent largely better-known films like Mother India, Mughal e Azam, Victoria No. 203, Shaan and Bombay to Goa.
“Film posters from the 1950s are too brittle. Those from the 1990s onwards are largely digital transfers and no artwork is really involved. That is why the exhibition focuses on these years,” explained Rupa Shah, head of sales. The original Victoria No. 203 and Dil Diya Dard Liya lithograph posters on show, she noted, still had the signatures of individual painters.
The exhibition is designed to supplement the larger Indian contemporary art exhibition that will soon be held by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.
Because they were designed to last only a few weeks, Indian film posters of that era were printed on newsprint and tended to disintegrate within a few years. The gallery has treated all its posters to remove the acid and allow for long-term collecting. The gallery, said Shah, could only find a single copy of a good condition Mother India poster. A number of the more easily available Bombay to Goa posters were being sold for about $100 each.
The exhibition also tried to show the variety of poster styles from a kitschy Shabnam poster to a crude tricolour Judaii festoon to two versions of Raaste Pyar Ki posters.