Rise & decline of hand painted Bollywood poster art

Indian cinema poster artists have left an indelible mark on our minds. Hand painted Bollywood movie posters were not only a means of advertising but a representation of culture. Back in time, Bollywood movie releases were preceded with the most popular form of advertising prevalent then – hand painted Bollywood movie posters plastered on crowded streets, followed by large Bollywood billboards overlooking busy marketplaces.

Although the exact origin of the use of hand painted Bollywood movie posters in film advertising in India are not certain, they can be traced way back to the 1920s. Rapid growth of Indian cinema from the 1950s onwards (referred to by many as the “golden period”) fueled demand for outdoor film advertising. Talented artists from across India responded to this need by specializing themselves in the trade of creating hand painted Bollywood movie posters and Bollywood movie billboards and taking up the practice as their full time profession. Putting soul into their paintings, these master artists created lifelike impressions of some of the biggest icons in Bollywood, and thus the magic of hand painted Bollywood movie posters and hand painted Bollywood movie billboards was born. Their colours captured the shades of characters and reflected the intensity and drama behind the scenes they represented. Many Bollywood movie poster artists used unique colours to portray negative or positive shades of characters, such as green being synonymous with evil and red signifying anger or revenge. Such was their mastery, that Bollywood movie poster artists made the streets of India come alive with their unique colours and painting styles that became virtually synonymous with Indian cinema. During their prime, the presence of massive hand painted Bollywood billboards and hand painted Bollywood cutouts outside theater halls delivered an unforgettable visual treat, pushing the definition of Bollywood movie poster art beyond advertising, and metamorphosing it into a cultural icon instead.

In 1990, when television had officially taken over outdoor advertising as the mainstay medium of publicity for Bollywood movies, the emphasis on hand painted Bollywood movie billboards and Bollywood movie posters dwindled rapidly. In 1991-1992, the digital printing revolution delivered the final nail in the coffin, closing curtains on the traditional art of hand painted Bollywood movie posters. Today, in the entire Mumbai city, the nerve center of the Bollywood movie industry, there remains only one theater that still uses hand painted Bollywood movie billboards as a form of outdoor advertising for every Bollywood movie screening.

With the digital era now in vogue, hand painted Bollywood billboards and hand painted Bollywood movie posters have long been forgotten. Digital posters can be printed in a jiffy as opposed to the painstaking art of painting them by hand. With the coming generation of Bollywood movie poster artists not seeing value in picking up the trade (due to the absence of demand), this magical art form is now at risk of being thrown into oblivion forever.

Indian Hippy aims to change that and bring the old back in vogue. The art remains the same – only the canvas reduced from large Bollywood movie posters and giant Bollywood billboards to everyday functional items. It is our endeavor to support Bollywood movie poster artists through this platform, and give them the encouragement to pass on their talent and legacy to the coming generations.