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That '70s look: Kitsch back in film posters


Hindi movie posters are no longer about thigh, cleavage and blood. Rustic flair has replaced glamour and glitz.

If you can't ride two horses at once, the circus isn't for you. In other words, Ajay Devgn can enjoy a prolonged stay in Bollywood. In a poster of his film Son Of Sardaar, a turban-sporting Devgn is seen standing on two majestic white horses in the glow of sunrise. From above him, another turban-sporting Devgn frowns at you intensely. Between the two, the film's title font screams. So, though the backdrop is Punjab, the overall impact of the poster is loud enough to remind you of cowboys, Texas and Dharmendra at the same time.

This effect is brought to you by what seems like Bollywood's latest marketing tool - rustic posters that aren't really photographs but almost paintings. While earlier a Bollywood director's brief for poster designers used to entail three words - thigh, cleavage and blood - today, the technicolour truck art look of the '80s seems to have become something of a norm. One look at the posters of many recent films, especially the ones that belong to the action-comedy stable and feature the standard moustachioed suspects of Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn, would make you think you are capable of such time-travel.

The trend stems from the industry's waning preoccupation with protagonists named Raj Malhotra and its increasing affinity for ones called Chulbul Pandey. As this look helps delineate films that are set in small towns and that depend heavily on the cow belt for their appeal, directors are open to the idea of designers using hysterical fonts or colouring the actors' cheeks in the various hues of Govinda's shirts. That's why the posters of Akshay Kumar's latest Khiladi 786, for instance, look like the back of a truck. In one such poster, the red sole of the actor's shoe dominates the foreground as well as in another one which says Horn Ok Please.

"The standard digital posters sometimes look too clean and can lack soul", explains Rahul Nanda, who designed the posters of Son Of Sardaar. As the film is set in rural Punjab, Nanda says he wanted "to create an earthy, grungy impact" in the posters - something he calls the "Wild, Wild West". So, Nanda's team digitally stylised posters, such as the one in which a group of villagers are seen chasing Ajay Devgn as he flees with Sonakshi Sinha's portrait, to look like paintings.

While many go for such digitally stylised paintings, Rowdy Rathore was perhaps the first among recent films to use the technique of hand-painted posters. This Akshay Kumar starrer wasn't the typical slick action film where the actor was jumping off helicopters or lying off glass skyscrapers. So, the idea was "to reposition it as a rustic, UP-style action film and to break away from the clutter of action films such as Wanted, Singham and Ghajini, which preceded the film", says Shikha Kapur, executive director, marketing, at Disney UTV.

That explains the campaign which involved hand-painted posters in some of which Sonakshi Sinha looks visibly more curvaceous and Akshay Kumar can be seen holding a pink Holi gun. In order to portray the true character of Rathore, "we decided to dominate the festival space", says Kapur, justifying the insertion of lines such as "Naya saal, naya maal" and "Kheloge pyaar se toh bachoge maar se". The latter even carried a Holi helpline number as a footnote.

Interestingly, even the posters of Ishaqzaade, which belong to the Yashraj stable, were a harkback to the '70s, as the film was set in the badlands of North India. This was a deviation from the norm of otherwise glamorous Yashraj posters. "We felt the treatment of Ishaqzaade's poster was the best way to depict the mood and tone of the film, to give a warm rustic feel and a '70s look, " says Rafiq Gangjee, YRF's vice-president, marketing and communications. "Even the costumes used for the poster depict a small-town, old-world rustic look. "

In fact, Gangjee had even contemplated putting a handmade poster out everywhere but the costs of making and transportation were prohibitive. Cost is a major factor why this form and style can't really be replicated ad hoc for all films. "It is time-consuming and expensive. We can't repeat it too often, " says Nanda. "Besides, there's crores at stake in commercial cinema. So you can't be too self-indulgent. "

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