Sunday, October 24, 2021

That thrill of film posters on walls (Column: B-Town)

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By Vinod Mirani

The era of wall posters of films and street banners is extinct and might as well, for the creativity that came with hand-drawn poster designs and film banners was an art. The whole process was very interesting and achieved what it was supposed to do — attract eyeballs.

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What was good about the system of hand-designed film publicity was that it involved a chain of people. It started with an on-the-spot still photographer — on the spot, as in at the shooting schedules. His job was to click pictures as shooting progressed. This served two main purposes. One was that these stills helped in continuity and the other was for selection of pictures for designing film publicity.

Maintaining continuity was very important in those days since shooting schedules were spread over long stretches in chunks of few days over a year and a half to even three years! There were studios that specialised in film still photography — a tedious task as the studio photographer followed the shooting stints wherever they were held, without the same facility as the others in the unit enjoyed. The most prominent among all such studios was Kamat Foto Flash, located at Famous Studios in Mahalaxmi, Mumbai, from where many film production offices were also operated.

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Film posters were printed in three varieties, the standard full sheet which was 30″x40″; 20″x30″, which was normally used at smaller centres; and the six-sheeter, which was made up of six 30″x40″ sheets pasted together. If you could call a full sheet as a teaser in today’s parlance, six-sheeter was a full-length trailer. It covered more details and pictures of the all main artistes on display.

The wall poster publicity was the most popular and effective way of reaching out to people. As if by magic, they appeared overnight. When you travelled home in the evening, you saw the same old posters on the wall, almost torn, having succumbed to the vagaries of weather. These new posters sprang up on the walls overnight in major cities and was a cause to pause, however the urgency to reach the workplace.

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Movie buffs made it a point to stop and stare at the posters, taking it all in. There was no social media but the local train commuting and office coffee breaks served the purpose. The new film posters were discussed threadbare and decisions made if the film was worth watching or not!

The campaign started with full-sheet posters, soon to be followed by six-sheeters, which were more elaborate. As I said earlier, a teaser followed by a trailor kind of promotion. This attracted more eyeballs.

If these wall posters appeared overnight, there were two people behind it. One person ran with a ladder hung around his shoulder, while the other carried a roll of posters in one hand and a can of paste and brush in the other. It was a well-coordinated equation between the two as one laid a poster front down on the floor, applied paste and handed it over to the other who was halfway up the ladder. Pasted properly on the wall, the sprint started again to the next wall.

These poster-pasting men set a target for themselves. One such man I knew had a policy that howsoever thirsty he might be, he won’t even pause to drink water till he completed his quota of pasting. His reason was that this speeded up his work!

The film posters also adorned the kiosks on lamp posts, which was a costlier affair and the small filmmakers could not afford. Besides the rental for these kiosks, there was also a local municipal tax. The system was well worked out as after the posters were pasted as required, a representative of the client travelled across the city for a count. There was no shortchanging the film’s distributor. If at all any hanky-panky happened, it was with the municipal taxes and did not involve the client.

These posters had an all-India reach as they were put up across all mainline railway station, too.

That era of streets plastered with film posters is extinct. Delhi was the first metro to put a ban on such posters on the walls. Mumbai followed, though small films are still publicised this way. Now, this kind of pasting happens only at small centres where the penetration of TV and print media is limited.

The current trend of publicity for a film is mainly through print and television promos, besides standees and other such props put up at cinema halls.

That thrill of gaping at the newly-pasted wall poster is over.

@The Box Office

* Looks like bad times for the business of cinema. Cinema has always been most vulnerable to outer factors, social or natural. Indians have this confidence that bad things and COVID 19 can only affect others. And, may it be a cricket stadium or a cinema hall, they can’t be deterred. Hence, the initiative lay with the powers that be.

The Delhi Government announced the closure of all cinema halls from immediate effect till the end of March, and more state governments followed. If the open air stadium cricket IPL is being postponed, a closed door cinema hall will surely be a casualty.

The Maharashtra government has decided to close cinema halls in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur. Cinemas have also been asked to close down for now in Bihar, Orissa, Karnataka and Kerala, besides in Jammu.

The new release, much-delayed but also looked-forward-to “Angrezi Medium”, will be the first victim of the COVID 19 pandemic, as will last week’s film, “Baaghi 3”, which has entered its second week. As with some Hollywood films, Hindi filmmakers have also taken the cue, and the first multistar cast film in a long time, “Sooryavanshi”, has been postponed indefinitely. The film stars Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh and is directed by a top-of-the-rung director, Rohit Shetty. Many more filmmakers may take a similar decision.

* While on the “Baaghi” franchise, “Baaghi 3”, costlier compared to its predecessors, took a decent opening, ending its first weekend with about Rs 53 crore. The film sustained through the week peaking again on Tuesday thanks to Holi and closed its first week with a total of Rs 87 crore. With no major opposition this week, the film should maintain well, offsetting its Delhi business where the cinema halls have been asked to down shutters.

* “Thappad” has added a little over Rs 8 crore in its second week taking its two-week tally to Rs 29 crore.



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