Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, June 26, 2008

By Hitoishi Chakma and Monty Python
Photos by Hitoishi Chakma

You walk into their trap everyday. While strolling down the street or being stuck in a traffic jam take 'one' look and you are done! These visual traps, however stupid or provocative, do succeed to attract people in the end. These are all those cinema posters out there creating business for our film industry.

Cinema and Posters
Films have always been able to fascinate us, but if it were not for the posters we would not even have come to know of all those great movies. Over the years these posters have taken advertising for cinemas to a whole new level. At first those used to have just the stylishly embellished name of the cinema on them. Then some artists started to take it a bit further when they started to draw by hand some of the characters from the movies. After that came the digital age. But the huge posters that are hung on the outside of the cinema halls still used to be hand painted until very recently. It has been almost one and a half years that those huge posters are also being produced digitally.

Thanks to graphic designers like Mr. Mahfuz who are now able to cater to the cinema producers needs for all sorts of posters, Shitesh babu who started painting posters for Bangla cinemas a year after the liberation war, sees very little business these days. With his traditional methods Shitesh babu cannot possibly compete with Mr. Mahfuz who has his computers and printers as his tools rather than a paintbrush. As very little business comes by these days Shitesh babu said, “I do works mainly for Balaka these days, and occasionally for some other cinema halls.” When asked about how long it takes for him to paint one poster, he replied, “I can do one in a single day if needed, but for some I take a week.” While for the digital ones, if you place an order at noon you could usually get it done by the evening in approximately two-three hours.

Lutfor Rahman, a Senior Executive at the Balaka Cinema Hall, when asked if he thought of the cinema posters and the huge hand painted banners as an art form, gave a nod that seemed not too whole hearted. But it is only natural that he would find it a dilemma to answer such a question as Bangla cinema has not been doing so much to uphold its forgone prestige of the yesteryears. Thus the traditional hand painted cinema posters, which otherwise could have definitely been considered to be an art form just as the rickshaw paintings, are being ignored. Mr. Mahfuz, who has been his doing digital works for the bangla film posters for eight years resolutely suggested, “Actually it is not a dying art, the media has just transformed due to technological advancement.”

The view about this matter among the young population is equally divided. 20 year old Tanif when asked about his views was generous to say, “I think the hand painted traditional ones should be considered art.” While 18 year old Tasnia harshly rejected the notion. “Bangla Cinema Posters? Hell no! They aren't!” Whatever is the case, we can at least say that our form of cinema advertisement is quiet unique, not just because those 'can' attract people but also because those are used to accommodating over a hundred faces in their every square inch, albeit in a very nice way.

Modern Age Provides Choices
During the stone ages people were used to having very few choice, but as the modern era loomed there popped up choices after choices. Now that we have digital posters alongside the traditional ones we opt for the better and the cheaper, and inevitably the better option always manages to eventually stamp out the other one. These days Shitesh babu's shop is lone one in Shakhari Bazar, a place that used to house ten to twelve more shops of that kind, taking the very few orders for traditional posters that come by these days. Lutfor Rahman from Balaka said he prefers the digital ones althought those cost 20-22 tk per sqft while the traditional ones cost 10-12 tk. And he is not the only one.

We should not let the traditional poster artists drift away to oblivion. Right now the idea might seem stupid but maybe after fifty years when we will look back, and the artists will be forever gone, we might regret not taking an initiative to keep them alive. The initiative could be anything ranging from token orders of at least one traditional poster for every cinema hall to going to one of the shops with your whole family to make for yourselves a Bangla cinema styled family painting rather than taking a family photograph, which would make for a very nice view of your living room, and it would definitely be fun.



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