Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Posternama: The secret language of movie posters

There are many ways movies get promoted these days: youtube previews, celeb interviews, appearances on TV shows and - if you happen to be part of Balaji Telefilms - a mention or two on a saas- bahu serial. Of all these, probably because of my passionate love for comics, movie posters remain my favorite.

Because they have the task of communicating so much with so little, the design of movie posters is an art in and of itself. Granted movie posters don't sell Bollywood flicks, but I thought I'd check in on them to see how well they were doing their job.

I looked at posters for several major upcoming flicks this year. Then I read their previews and watched theatrical trailers to see if the message in the poster matched the purported plot. Here are the results.

Movie: Aladin
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Riteish Deshmukh, Jacqueline Fernandez, Sanjay Dutt
Release: October 31

What the poster says: Its a love story (note: Riteish and Jackie in the middle) with a smoking (read: magical) lamp. There is a bad guy who wants the lamp and will grimace fiercely to get it (Amitabh). A laid back sleepy circus ringmaster types (Sanjay Dutt) is also in this movie and seems to be pissing Amitabh off. There is a bridge with lightening bolts in the back indicating much peril is at hand.

What the previews say: Amitabh is the genie, you dummy, not the bad guy. The bad guy is actually the somewhat bored looking Sanjay Dutt. Looks can be deceiving huh? Watch the Preview.

Movie: London Dreams
Starring: Salman Khan, Ajay Devgun, Asin
Release: October 31

What the poster says: This is a story about stars (note the cutouts of the O's in the title) - probably rock stars because one of them (that chick in the middle) is holding a guitar and wearing what appears to be a patka. There are two men in this movie, possibly vying for the chick because one girl in a movie with two eligible men is bad news for bros. This girl might be part human, part ghost because she is partly in black and white and partly in color. Salman also appears to be taller than Asin and Ajay (hey, what happened to truth in advertising?)

What the previews say: London Dreams is a movie about a rock star and his best friend in the khet who joins him in London and steals his gal - who appears to be quite human and unlike a ghost. Ajay Devgun gets lots of opportunities to display his best expression - pissed off. Watch the preview.

Movie: Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani
Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif
Release: November 6

What the poster says: Young, cute lovers! Ranbir is in slacker cool threads. Katrina is trying to channel a Harajuku girl. Ranbir looks adoringly at Katrina who mugs for the camera. Does this mean the man does the chasing? Quite possibly. The title is built with thought and speech bubbles on a thin book layout indicating this is a comic book-like movie with a voice that might be the audience's own. Now, about the plot - we may not have one.

What the previews say: We don't have a plot, but we have young, cute lovers doing adorable, funny things. Watch the preview.

Movie: Jail
Starring: Neil Nitin Mukesh
Release: November 6

What the poster says: Its a love story but the dude (Neil Nitin Mukesh) ends up in jail. He probably ends up thinking a lot about Mughda Godse while he is in jail. Its a dark, gritty movie. The only color is red - indicator of either danger or passion. Guess which emotion this poster is channeling?

What the previews say: Neil Nitin Mukesh is accused of something. He looks confounded. Mughda frets but looks unsure if her lover is innocent. Neil gets shipped off to jail. He gets roughed up. Its starts to look ominous for him. Sheesh, what a downer! Watch the preview.

Movie: Kurbaan
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor
Release: November 20

What the poster says: We have two hot stars - who are both near naked. You still want to know more? Ok you dweeb - Kareena's wistful look indicates concern. Saif's guilty, downcast look indicates a promise that he can't fulfill. Saif's bullet wound and flowing blood indicate mortal danger. The title 'Some love stories have blood on them' along with the image conjures up a B-grade soft core thriller.

What the previews say: Hells bells, this movie is a terrorist thriller. But there are two hot stars. They are both near naked sometimes. And they make out. Then, everyone runs around. Watch the preview.

Movie: Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year
Starring: Ranbir Kapoor
Release: December 11

What the poster says: This movie is about a guy called Rocket Singh. Such an adorable name, no? And to go with that we have Ranbir dressed like a surd. He's dapper and playful - we know this because of the paper airplane in the back. He's hazaar-enthu - we know this because of the washing powder Nirma type halo around him. He's ready to take over the world - we know this because he's offering us his business card. The business card cleverly masquerades as the movie's credits, thus indicating that this is a funda wala movie. Which all means - yes, we don't have a plot.

What the previews say: Ranbir is a dapper, playful, hazaar-enthu salesman. Yes, we don't have a plot. But its still early days, yes? Watch the preview.

Movie: 3 Idiots
Starring: Aamir Khan
Release: December 25

What the poster says: This is a movie about three men. The chalkboard font seems to indicate a classroom. This impression is further reinforced by scribblings on the wall. The men are banished from looking at the camera - suggesting that they are in trouble in class and possibly in detention. They are sitting on seats that look like gigantic molded butts. This reinforces that the guys are idiots or perceived as such. They are probably the butt of all jokes.

What the previews say: No previews yet. But you can bet the whole ensemble cast bit will be dropped come trailer time and we'll see much more of Aamir Khan.


Mind Rush said...

Drift saab, wah wah! This is a unique story ...you managed to write a post on something most of us don't think much about...Thus creating substance and plot from nothing.
Please sell this talent to Bollywood-wallas in need of a plot!

Unknown said...

Mind Rush, I'm glad you enjoyed that. I'm happiest when people tell me things are quirky and/or unique here on the Drift.

bollywooddeewana said...

Great Post as usual Drift,i myself did a post on the wonderful world of bollywood posters (mostly vintage) sometime ago, the history of the bollywood poster has indeed come a long way


Unknown said...

bd, really liked your collection - you are fellow poster lover brother.

Anonymous said...

does anyone see posters anymore?

Deep said...

super! but what about himesh's movie poster for radio? i think what it says - this movie has himesh in it. himesh sings. women love him as usual.

preview says - popcorn better be good.

Tanvi said...

Interesting take Aspi G! and yes, very Unique :o)

Lin said...

There's really nothing to say other than good post, Aspi. And your last Title trend post too.

Just wanted to give my props

Unknown said...


oRange* said...

that was an interesting interpretation!

Mind Rush said...

Dear Blog-e-Drift,

Happy Birthday to thee!
Today you turn three.
Best things in life come free...

Have a fabulous celebration! Great going for the last three years. Happy toddlerhood :-)

Unknown said...

Mind Rush, how do you keep track of this? I don't even remember myself. But thanks for the support and wishes :)

Anonymous said...

Talented Aspindran:
Genious stroke of pen , what are you doing in Chilly Chicago - Bollywood needs you

Himesh R
See my Movie Radio

HImesh sir's hairstylist said...

Happy birday Drift. Come to Mumbai and I do same magic for you that I did for Himesh sir.

Unknown said...

You worked on Himesh's hair?! I definitely need to meet you, you genius.

musical said...

Very interesting analysis, Aspi! You always have such brilliant and off-beat analyses of seemingly routine things (such as a movie poster!). I love your spirit of finding unique and fun things and making them even more interesting!

And a very happy b'day to the Drift! Wish you many many more years for fun and creativity!

Anonymous said...

"Katrina is trying to channel a Harajuku girl."

HAHAHAHAHA I literally laughed out loud when I read that. I knew she looked really familiar, I just couldn't place her!

ramki said...
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