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Unknown Stories Behind Rare Film Posters

April 16, 2014 | By

Film historian and archivist SMM Ausaja unveils the unknown stories behind posters – the hand-painted posters, the rare posters that have been restored, the difference between original and re-release posters and more…!

Film posters have a history as rich and colourful as films themselves.

Since the silent era till today, film posters have undergone many a transformation – from hand-painted to screen-printed and now digitized.

Some rare hand-painted Hindi film posters

Films, when released had multiple posters, each poster expressing a highlight of the movie. Usually, the initial release posters would feature the lead actors prominently.

Multiple posters of the same film

Original posters and re-release posters are different

There is a marked difference between original posters and re-release posters. The reason for this is the original posters carried the thoughts and imagination of the filmmakers.

When the film would be ready for its initial release, usually the director would give a set of movie stills that he wanted highlighted in the posters to the artists who would then create the hand-painted posters as a sort of artistic representation of the movie stills.

Once the film was released and had completed its run in the theaters, the posters were sold off in junk. This is the reason why 70% of original film posters have perished. Of the surviving 30%, about 20% is with organized archives and about 10% with private collectors.

Sometime after its release, may be a year or two, the distributor of the film would decide to re-release the film again, especially if it was a hit.

For the re-release, the posters were printed again, since the original ones had not been preserved.

However, this time the posters would carry the vision of the distributor and not the artistry of the filmmaker. Hence, you will find the re-release posters markedly different from the original. These would be cheap quality with tacky production values.

Sharp difference between original and re-release posters

Posters of Andhaa Kaanoon and Giraftar

Its funny how distributors alter the size of a star on the film posters depending on his popularity, when they re-release the film: In these films Amitabh Bachchan had a ‘Special Appearance’ and yet see what they did to the posters!

Posters that are rare and old of antique value sometimes need to be restored as they are worn due to lack of proper preservation.

Such old and rare posters are often cracking at folds and the paper has many holes and marks. These are removed digitally without compromising on aesthetics.

Some digitally restored rare posters

Read about SMM Ausaja’s enviable collection of film posters and memorabilia in Bollywood In Posters: 25-Year-Long Journey With Film Memorabilia.

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Film historian, author and archivist of vintage film memorabilia SMM Ausaja is Sr Vice President of Osianama, the world’s largest art and cinema archive online. Based in Mumbai, Ausaja has collected, preserved, archived and restored a phenomenal collection of posters, movie stills, song synopsis booklets, lobby cards, glass slides, post cards, LP records and other film memorabilia over the last two and a half decades. He is the author of Bollywood in Posters and has co-authored Bollywood: The Films! The Songs! The Stars! He can be contacted on
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