Handmade Movie Posters: A Fading Memory

In the era of everything digital, there are only a few artists who are still making handmade posters, the art that goes back to the 1920s. Read more about the art of making handmade movie posters and how Chinnappa is one of the few artists saving the art form.

The first traces of handmade movie posters were seen in the 1920s, in India. One could see colorful painted posters on billboards, sidewalks, and electric poles throughout the city during a film release.

The film industry has always been something exciting for people and hence the craze of handmade movie posters too have come along.

Vintage movie posters sell for millions in the market today, but with the coming of the digital revolution, there are only a few takers left.

Digital printing of posters has cost a lot for the poster painters. In India, now, there are very few painters who work for the movies making posters and cutouts.

Kakaiati Chinnappa, an eminent painter has worked for the film industry, almost all his life. From the young age of nine, he has been painting posters for both Bollywood and Sandalwood.

Even now, at the age of 81, he still paints enormous cutouts of actors and movie posters for movie promotions, back here in his hometown, Bangalore.

“I never went to school. Instead, I started painting under the guidance of my guru, Shri Seenu,” K. Chinnappa recollected.

K Chinnappa at his studio.

His first work, for the films, was “Bedara Kannappa” as an assistant. Right after this movie, offers for painting posters kept pouring in and Chinnappa’s journey of painting banners, posters and cutouts began.
Hand-painted posters were a huge craze at that time. Chinnappa has garnered a huge amount of love and praise that several popular stars like Amitabh Bachchan have come to meet him personally.

Chinnappa’s success in the movies had led him an entry into the Guinness and Limca book of records. He has won 70 shields and numerous accolades that include the Indira Priyadarshini Award, given by the Chairman of Indira Priyadarshini Institution.

In the digital era, today, Chinnappa is only one of the few artists left who have tried to preserve this even today. Digital printing has been a block to Chinnappa’s business as well.

“More than the business, it’s the art that is dying. We are not able to save it anymore,” said Chinnappa.

He also mentioned that painting is something that one is born with and should be nurtured from a very young age. He has passed on his legacy by guiding his children and grandchildren through the world of painting.

His son, Gopalkrishna, who is also a painter, helps his father at the studio now. Chinnappa, on a daily basis, paints around 20- 25 cutouts of actors for movie promotions.

Here is a short video of this beautiful art form:

Photos and Video: Nidhi Roy and Chaithra Srinivas

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Nidhi Roy