Ask V. Sunil, the executive creative director of Wieden+ Kennedy (W+K), New Delhi, why he has had posters of movies with names like Junglee Bulbul, Sarphira Aashiq and Meri Dhoti, Tera Ghagra on his office walls for the last five years, and he’ll say it’s because they’re ingenious. “And ‘mind-blowingly’ funny.”
Sunil is putting his personal collection of adult movie posters up for display in an exhibition titled Morning Show, which opens today.
Sunil started collecting in 2001, when a friend who works in film production in Mumbai mailed him a bunch of posters. Around 30 posters from his collection will be on display at W+K Exp, the advertising agency’s gallery space.
Apart from the obvious kitsch factor in these Hindi movie posters from the 1980s and 1990s, Sunil is intrigued by their pre-Photoshop aesthetic. With paltry budgets, these posters were created with cut-outs from international magazines juxtaposed with handpainted titles and other imagery. This cut-paste creation was then photographed and printed on flimsy poster paper.
“There’s no concept of perspective or scale,” says Sunil. “But there is a language running through them. The use of words and the art direction is intriguing.” He points to a poster in which a man’s head is superimposed on a woman’s breast. Another, for a film titled Air Hostess Girls, features American actor Brooke Shields.
Peep show: Sunil sorting the posters for display in Morning Show. Photograph by Priyanka Parashar/Mint.
Scores of Web shops stand evidence to the fact that classic Bollywood posters have become collectibles around the world. But adult movie posters have remained underground, as have the movies they promote. Interestingly, none of the posters are particularly graphic. They bring forbidden fantasies to life through layered visuals and bizarre titles like Tambu main bamboo ke baad.
Graphic novelist Vishwajyoti Ghosh, whose book Times New Roman & Countrymen (Blaft, 2009) borrowed pop-visuals from movie posters, stamps and matchbox art, says one would be hard-pressed to find these low-brow gems today. “There are no archives or even personal collections,” he says. “For a social observer or commercial artist, these are particularly interesting as a sub-category of kitsch...it’s innovation within limitations.”
Before W+K, Sunil ran his own agency called A and worked as an art director with a number of agencies, including Ogilvy and Mather and McCann Erickson. He is keenly tuned to Indian sub-cultures. “For me, Morning Show is a throwback to those groups of school students and men in collar shirts nonchalantly emerging from adult-only shows. For many of them, this represented the only form of eroticism when the joint family system made a private life impossible,” he says.
The posters on display are original 4x5ft prints. The exhibition will also include a few 12x6ft hoardings. Sunil plans to package it all with video and sound projections.
Morning Show will run till 17 September at W+K Exp, Sheikh Sarai, New Delhi. The posters are priced between Rs 15,000 and Rs 50,000.