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Buy a piece of Mr B
A sale of Bachchan memorabilia includes posters, lobby art and an LP of the famous 'Kaalia' dialogue
Much of Amitabh Bachchan's allure and charisma was built by the scores of posters that depicted him running, dancing or fighting in full technicolour. As he delivered one hit film after another, giant and garish cut-outs of the actor dominated bus stops and neighbourhood walls. Printed on an industrial scale in the '70s, these sheets of pop art are now worth their weight in gold.
Last week, Saffronart, an experienced player in auctioning Indian art online, put out a small collection of posters, lobby art and LPs (long playing records) of Bachchan's films from the '70s, the peak of the 'angry young man' phase in movies like Zanjeer (1973), Sholay (1975) and Muqaddar ka Sikandar (1978); from intense, romantic hero films like Silsila (1981); and from his comedies like Namak Halal (1982). The most expensive item in the collection, called Bollywood's Big B - available online for two more weeks - is the Sholay poster priced at Rs 9, 800. Equally coveted is the LP from Kaalia (1981) which has "electrifying dialogue" as an addition. Bollywood's Big B is a part of The Story, carefully curated collections of beautiful and significant objects from the past and present for sale.
Yamini Telkar, a specialist at Saffronart, had been itching to do something fun, and didn't need to look beyond Bachchan. "He's synonymous with Bollywood and is definitely one of the more recognisable markers of India abroad, even for non-Indians, " Telkar says. Most film memorabilia is bought by foreigners and NRIs since Indians have still not cottoned onto the fact that investing in hand-painted posters is akin to buying art. In fact, posters are easier to maintain than paintings. A poster doesn't require much maintenance. It has to be framed, kept dry and away from the sun as the paper is fragile and can fade.
The collection took around three months to put together and was sourced from private collectors in Delhi. For a Bachchan fan, and there are plenty of them around, it's a compact collection of memorabilia all under one roof. Telkar's favourite piece is the Kaalia LP, priced at just Rs 3, 600. "It was very difficult to find... I was very keen on a Silsila EP as well but couldn't find it but whatever pieces we did manage to unearth are all in mint condition, " she says.
Though film memorabilia has gained commercial traction in India only in the past decade, interest, and prices, have been rising. Until five or so years ago, finding old posters and LPs was fairly easy in the second-hand markets of Delhi and Mumbai. Now it's much harder to find them. Ramona Singh, director of Dreams Online, which also auctions film memorabilia and celebrity-related items, says all things Bachchan are sure to sell. "Bachchan always sells. He's in a completely different league. "
Singh, who put together an exhibition of Bachchan's posters for his 60th birthday a decade ago, has seen demand soar and supply shrink. "Lots of people have started hoarding now, " she says. "I had a few suppliers in Old Delhi and Mumbai but now it's getting increasingly hard to find posters, especially from some of his more famous films like Sholay, Deewar and Don. "
Telkar faced the same problem when sourcing for her project. "I was hoping to find some other posters of Sholay, some of the more typical hand-painted posters, but I couldn't get any, " she says. "The problem is also that most posters haven't been preserved properly and are either creased or torn from the sides. "
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