The art of making movie posters.

The art of making movie posters 

Kannada film fraternity shares how these artworks have evolved and why they are integral to a film’s success

Director Rohit Padaki's film 'Ratnan Prapancha'.

Movie posters are more than just promotional material. They are the first look of a film, also an introduction of things to come. 

Artists from Sandalwood tell Metrolife how the art of making movie posters has evolved with time and the challenges it faces now. 

Early years 

The poster of the first Kannada talkie, ‘Sati Sulochana’, was made using block printing. Subsequent films made by Honnappa Bhagavathar and Gubbi Veeranna used the same technique, says Sandalwood art director and actor Arun Sagar. 

The poster makers had to ensure the fonts were written big and clearly and without mistakes. Actor B Suresh shares, “In those days, Tamil artists used to make Kannada posters. Making sure that they wrote Kannada titles without any mistake was a task.” 

Earlier posters would simply carry the movie title and names of the director and producer. But they became a medium of story-telling with the advent of analogue printing later. “In the poster of ‘Bangarada Manushya’, you could now see that Rajkumar’s character was a farmer. In the poster of ‘Nagarahaavu’, you could see the location the film was set in,” he says. 

The creative evolution also lent heft to the profession. Earlier, posters were made by painters and illustrators but later on, people started specialising in poster making.

Then vs now 

The digital medium has sped up the process but it has taken away from the artistic rigour. Film photographer Srivatsa Shandilya says, “Earlier posters would make use of spray paint or would require cut-and-paste work. Since technology was limited, we had to constantly innovate and find solutions. Now things have become simpler, and the magic that one used to experience while making posters in the analogue era is missing.”

K Suchendra Prasad gets nostalgic about yesteryear artists like Mani and Gangadhar. They used to paint the faces of heroes and heroines manually, capturing the facial nuances down to their expressions.

“Now we don’t get to see that intensity (in the posters) despite the technological advancements we have made,” says the actor. 

But there are outliers in each era. Srivatsa gives an example of the poster of the 2010 film ‘Sugreeva’ that he had shot. In the poster, Shivrajakumar, the lead actor, is shooting through a glass wall.

 “For that photo, I asked Shivrajakumar to lie on the floor. I later inverted the photograph and added an image of shattered glass using Photoshop to create the poster. (Bollywood film) ‘Dabangg’ made a similar poster after this.”

The purpose of a movie poster 

According to actor B Suresh, a movie poster should check the following boxes

Archival: A movie poster should have a strong recall value so you can remember it for years and decades.

Invitation: It should get the fans of an actor excited and eagerly waiting for the film.

Promotions: The image should capture the essence of the film.