[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Bollywood technology kills poster art

By Humphrey Hawksley
BBC World Affairs Correspondent in Delhi

Devdas posters beckon customers at a street-side stall
Hand-painted posters are becoming scarce

Down an alley in Delhi, past a Hindu shrine and puddles from the monsoon, you get to one of the last studios where artists paint billboards for Indian movie blockbusters.

Their work is stacked against each other, huge displays in bright epic colours, the faces of heroes and heroines, dwarfing the men on ladders touching up their lips and eyelashes.

"I don't think I'll be doing this for much longer," says Raza Abbas who has been painting since he was 14.

"No one wants our hand-painted work anymore. Everything is becoming computerised and the cinemas are being made into these multi-plexes"

Abbas is a victim of India's technology and economic explosion.

The old cinema hall is dying out and the shopping mall with coffee shops, fountains, designer boutiques and multi-plex cinemas are coming in.

Rising value

"In a few years time, there won't be any hand-painted posters," says Rajender Singh who runs one of the few remaining cinema halls.

Mother India poster
Mother India (1957) tells the story of a family's struggle to survive against an evil money lender
"This one in the car park, this is hand painted, but the one here right outside the box office is digital art.

"It is much cheaper and when the film closes here we can roll it up and ship it off to the next cinema."

But while the art might be dying, the products are becoming more valuable.

In a cubby hole of a shop, a young couple, Urvi and Jus Singh, are surrounded by a clutter of old Indian movie posters.

The rarest from 1950s films such as Mother India, India's first entry for the Oscars, sell for up to US$100.

"The old posters are more beautiful," says Urvi. "You can see the lines and texture. The new ones are just copies of the films made by someone sitting at a computer."


She unrolls a poster for one of the latest hit films Bend It Like Beckham.

Traditional artists face an uncertain future
"See this," says Jus. "There is no feeling from the artist. Its technical design might be good, but this..." he says pointing to the wall.

"I would die to be able to get more of these. But I think we've seen the last."

Urvi chips in. "That's not to say the modern posters aren't valuable. We have a difficult time getting hold of these as well."

In the window of the tiny Movie Max shop, a Hindi poster for Spiderman hangs alongside one for the 1975 film Sholay, still considered to be the great Indian classic.

For Urvi and Jus, there might be a tinge of nostalgia, but - whether hand-painted or digital - business is still good.

In fact, they are planning to open up stores in Toronto and London.

Bollywood gets message across
14 Jul 03  |  South Asia
Bollywood Austen film goes global
11 Jul 03  |  Entertainment
Devdas sweeps Bollywood 'Oscars'
17 May 03  |  South Asia
Bollywood's Full Monty
23 May 03  |  South Asia

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific