Posterphilia on Instagram is all about trippy world of film posters

Nov 18, 2018, 15:49 IST | Ekta Mohta

Jahan Bakshi's Instagram account, Posterphilia, takes you into the trippy world of film posters, with proper research and analysis as captions

Posterphilia on Instagram is all about trippy world of film posters
Jahan Bakshi. Pic/Sameer Markande

The making of a film requires all kinds of nutjobs. It needs gaffers who are obsessed with light, lyricists with street slang and designers with the colour wheel. Similarly, 28-year-old Jahan Bakshi, who has worked as an assistant director (Gangs of Wasseypur), social media manager (Masaan, Hunterrr), marketer (at Drishyam Films), and subtitler (Sacred Games, Badhaai Ho), is bonkers over publicity design. "I've geeked out on movie posters for a very long time," he says.

Since Instagram is a good place to fan an obsession (even if it's with yourself), he started a page called Posterphilia in September. On it, he critiques film posters, offering a nerd's view of a niche art form. "Movie posters are an intersection between art and design," he says. "Even some very good designers actually s*@k at making posters because it does require a certain sensibility. Also, I have been very frustrated with the kind of work we do in India. Because we used to have a great poster tradition: Guide, Bobby, Mother India, all of Satyajit Ray's posters. And now we just dole out these really, really terribly Photoshopped or over-smoothened [images], and generally plagiarise a lot. Sometimes, it looks like Prisma ka filter laga diya hai, it's that bad."

"One of my favorite Indian movie posters: this is a surprisingly trippy and psychedelic design"
"One of my favorite Indian movie posters: this is a surprisingly trippy and psychedelic design"

Of course, designers alone aren't to blame; the studios are villains in this as well. "I've seen producers who think you can literally fart out a poster in a day. Even if it's just an image and text, a lot goes into the selection of that image, how we crop it, how we place it, how we treat it. Whenever I have got into a poster design, I've referenced at least 500 fonts to boil down on one title design. Some of the best designs I have seen were in the rejects folders, lying in computers."

The scale of the film also affects the ambition of the poster. "On small, indie films, I have often gone for illustrations - not because it's cool and artsy - but because they actually don't have good photographs. Honestly, nothing beats a great photograph." For instance, who can forget the poster of Swades, in which Shah Rukh Khan rubs shoulders with the unwashed on a rickety boat? It captured the film to a T.

"Absolutely stellar typography elevates the evocative photograph on this poster for Rahul Jain's documentary Machines, which observes the life of workers at a textile factory in Gujarat"
"Absolutely stellar typography elevates the evocative photograph on this poster for Rahul Jain's documentary Machines, which observes the life of workers at a textile factory in Gujarat"

Yet, a good poster doesn't necessarily translate into a good film, or vice versa. "In the mainstream, Rowdy Rathore had a very cool, pulpy poster campaign. Great copy and tag lines like, 'Ilaaka mera, dhamaka tera.' [It was] kitsch done well. The images were well-crafted; they didn't look crudely done. I suppose [the poster of] Masaan was done in a hurry. Masaan is a beautiful film, [but] the posters were terrible. There was one with a giant mugshot of Richa Chadha, and Vicky [Kaushal] and Shweta [Tripathi] at the bottom, and it just looked like she's a monster and going to eat them up."

"The Chinese poster uses the same key image as the original, but makes a bunch of additions. The commode is placed in the middle. This communicates how the toilet is keeping this couple apart"
"The Chinese poster uses the same key image as the original, but makes a bunch of additions. The commode is placed in the middle. This communicates how the toilet is keeping this couple apart"

If you follow his Instagram page, you will be introduced to some cool Japanese, Korean and Polish posters, and never-heard-of artists such as Akiko Stehrenberger, Vasilis Marmatakis, Tomer Hanuka and Ali Bagheri, as well as those with an Indian connection, such as Peter Strausfeld (who designed a few posters for Satyajit Ray's films), Grzegorz Domaradzki (the poster of Rockstar) and Juan Luis Garcia (Newton). "One [aim of the Instagram page] was to introduce all these artists to an Indian audience." Since he has hard drives filled with posters, he can easily run the page for three years, and has recently been commissioned by an Indian film website to write a regular column about them.

Of the current Indian film-makers, he credits only Chaitanya Tamhane and Sanjay Leela Bhansali with truly understanding poster design. "I think our film-makers are too busy just fighting about the film. They don't really have the mind space to get into the nitty-gritties of poster design." Which is why they need guys like Bakshi on their payroll. Bakshi has a five-second rule: "If a poster doesn't grab me within the first five seconds, it's kind of pointless."

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