Bollywood posters sells as art in Paris
New Delhi: A gun-totting Shashi Kapoor with his hooked nose, macho Dharmendra sporting a double chin, Amitabh Bachchan as the angry young man, and a svelte Nargis with her exaggerated pout.
These superstars might not have been flattered by their yesteryear posters but what was once considered cheap publicity for films in India is now coveted art in cities like Paris, Toronto, London and Berlin.
In romantic Paris, ambassador cars emblazoned with colourful posters of Bollywood flicks whizz past attracting curious onlookers, while London, Tokyo and Berlin all have stores which sell such posters.
"Most hand-painted posters we get here are done by artists in Mumbai. Since the market for such posters in India is limited, we are trying to promote the art in France," says Sophie Legoubin, whose Limona Studio sells customised painted posters in Paris.
Legoubin who visits India frequently along with her friend Sarah Loosdregt picks up the posters from artists in Mumbai and sells them in Paris for an average of 500 euros each.
"The accomplishment of these painters is amazing. Recently, in Lille (in France), a few film poster painters from India worked with French graffiti artists and the outcome was mind-boggling. It`s too bad that this art is shaky in India," says Loosdregt.
She points out that markets for poster art is stronger in countries like France, Spain, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia than in India where the handpainted posters, hugely popular in the 50s and 60s have given way to those printed using digital technologies.
"The major problem was that we painters weren`t united. We had no unions. When digital technology threatened our livelihood we accepted our lot without a fight. Many of us were forced to switch our profession overnight," says Vijay Singh, a Delhi-based artist who gave up painting posters a decade ago.
His brother Ranjeet, however, chose to brave the rough tide. "This is my life. I won`t give up that easily. Although my work today is limited to painting hoardings during election campaigns, painting is my passion. I still have a lot of tourists who come to me to get their portraits done with the typical film backdrop," says Ranjeet.