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Fifty Years Of Indian Cinema Alpesh Gajjar

Dimension : 20m x 2m With special thanks to Mehboob Productions Pvt. Ltd, Dharma Productions Pvt. Ltd, Geetha Arts, Red Chillies Entertainment, A Guru Dutt Films Enterprises and Mega Bollywood Pvt. Ltd for the use of their copyrighted image.

Fifty Years Of Indian Cinema

You've landed in the film capital of India, a city that churns out a large portion of the 800 films that are produced each year in this country. Alpesh Gajjar's billboard inspired artwork is a foretaste of what populates this city - you are never, not under the gaze of stars. Bollywood filmstars are worshipped here, as much as Gods are. Films are the opium of the masses, the escape from the harsh realities they live in.

Alpesh Gajjar belongs to a family of Bollywood billboard painters who drew inspiration from the posters of films from the West but gave them a distinct indigenous sensibility. Hand-painted in bold strokes and lurid colours, they reflected the painter's immediate surroundings and the glamorous photographic images from commercial advertisements.

Here, after deliberation, Gajjar in consultation with curator Rajeev Sethi decided to create a timeline of Bollywood milestones through iconic images of Indian cinema – the actress Nargis Dutt as 'Mother India', the smoky sepia image of Guru Dutt and Mala Sinha in 'Pyaasa', the "evergreen couple" Raj Kapoor and Nargis in a still from 'Barsaat', followed by larger than life images of stars such as Zeenath Aman, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, and Aamir Khan.

Six panels run 70 feet in length and 6.5 feet high. Working in a style reminiscent of his grandfather's era, Gajjar first sketched the imagery in chalk directly on the canvas. The drawing was then colour coded with the foreground and background clearly demarcated. The colours were filled in, with shading and highlights being added for additional drama. Unlike the original billboards, these images are intended to be seen close-up.

"That the viewers will be only two or three feet away from these images is a bit unfortunate; ideally these images should be viewed from 500 meters away," says Gajjar, yet hopes that "this work will create fresh excitement around a dying art."

Alpesh Gajjar

The Ahmedabad-based graphic artist Alpesh Gajjar hails from a family of Bollywood billboard painters. His grandfather, was one of Mumbai's most well-known billboard painters, in an era when hand-painted billboards were the only way to publicize Indian cinema. The third generation of artists in the family, Gajjar studied graphic design at M.S. University, Vadodara and worked in the sector for 10 years.

"I grew up around my grandfather's workshop and my initial training as a painter stemmed from my days at his workshop", recalls Gajjar. He combines this sensibility with his artistic training to create large works reminiscent of erstwhile Bollywood hoardings.

As flex printed digital images displace the ubiquitous hand-painted billboards that populated Indian streetscapes, that are now a dying art form, a few stalwarts continue to adhere to the language and technique of the old street artists. Poignantly, while there are few takers for their work in the Indian market, the West, tired of digitally produced, standardized posters, is expressing an interest.




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