‘Bollywood Posters‘ is a boring book if one feels like reading the content that accompanies the posters. And that’s a shame considering the fact that its publishers have spared no effort in making sure that the presentation and layout is truly international. Moreover, the book’s title itself is misleading. Anyone who looks at the two words ‘Bollywood’ and ‘Posters’ would be led to believe that it would be entirely about posters that have depicted the ‘First Look’ of the film from the yesteryears as well as current times. So do we miss these posters as a reader? No, not at all! In fact the collection of posters (by Sheena Sippy) in this 200 odd page book is pretty impressive. What fails to keep your attention on is writer Jerry Pinto’s write up which accompanies these posters chapter after chapter.
So what is wrong here? Well, for those who wish to be educated on the literature behind posters and also get sheer ‘gyaan’ about how genres were made identifiable through film posters, his writing may still make sense. But for a layman who just wishes to flip through the pages and gaze through full page posters from the 30s till as recent as Chandni Chowk To China, the text only makes for sheer boredom. That’s because this text is not just verbose and pretty voluminous; it also comes with a severe sense of self-indulgence.
Moreover, the text just doesn’t restrict itself to the design of a poster. In fact, it is only about 20% relevant to a poster and that’s because most of the time, the writer is happy describing about the genres that Bollywood has explored over the decades and the kind of films that have been made. In fact at places, even the storyline of films is being put up, something which really turns out to be annoying because what one was interested in looking at, especially if one has bought the book due to it’s title ‘Bollywood Posters‘, is – Explore posters and a lot more of posters!
However, what one gets to see are essays which would be loved by those who follow the ‘literature’ behind cinema while being flipped over rather arrogantly by someone who is just not interested in knowing these facts. Also, even for a student of Bollywood cinema, there is already very good literature available in the form of B D Garga’s ‘So Many Cinemas – The Motion Picture in India’. The book has traditionally worked as a text book comprising of everything that one wanted to know about emerging trends in cinema and if one has already gone through it, there are actually no surprises in store from ‘Bollywood Posters‘.
This leads one to the ‘real content’ that one wanted to look for in this book i.e. Bollywood posters. And in this context, the book has plenty to offer. From the psychedelic look of Bobby to the new age design of Dil Chahta Hai, from the superhero world of Zorro [starring Navin Nischol as ‘Zorro’ – now how many would have really known this fact!] to today’s superhero Drona, from the sheer delight that one gets on seeing Dev Anand’s towering frame in Johny Mera Naam to the killer look of Johnny Gaddaar – there is quite some range in the offering once Sheena Sippy opens up her collections for all to see.
In fact the effort that would have gone in order to make ‘Bollywood Posters‘ a collector’s delight just from the posters point of view is pretty much visible in the fact that some not so popular films from the past like Kaala Jadoo [featuring a King Kong kind of a character] and Rocket Tarzan [believe it or not, it indeed is the title of a film] also find an honorable mention in this book.
However, what really shocks is to see the choice that authors of the book have made when it comes to the selection of poster that would grace the cover of the book. Bringing in something rare for the cover certainly makes sense but the ones on the front cover (Sharmila Tagore holding a pistol in Do Shatru) and back cover (tight close up of a screaming Mala Sinha with mouth wide open) is sheer repulsive. Why, just why?
The book has been divided into genres and posters placed accordingly but as mentioned earlier; it hardly comes as a consolation mainly due to the intellectual talks that are forced on a reader at the beginning of every genre. Drama, Crime, History, Mythology, Romance and Fantasy are the genres explored but how one wishes that the writing was kept simple and to the point for a reader to just plain and simple enjoy flipping through the pages and relish the rarest of 200 odd posters that make an appearance in this paperback book.
Ultimately the book boils down to finding an audience only amongst the hardcore Bollywood buffs who wish to boast of a collection that showed the emergence of Hindi cinema over last 80 odd years. Even for those, it would be quite some decision to make considering the heavy price tag ‘Bollywood Posters’ comes with. Go for it only if you have placed a bet with a friend that movies called Rocket Tarzan and Sindbad Alibaba Aladin actually existed! The book would act as quite an evidence to make you win the bet!
Price: Rs. 1800/=