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Hand-painted movie posters and the dying art of an artist who still brings celebs to life through his works

There was a time when people worshiped movie stars, a time when cinema halls of all languages ​​produced extraordinary heroes and heroines. if he was like that Rajesh Khannahandjob Amitabh BachchanIn Bollywood, Hema Malini and Rekha, their counterparts Uttam Kumar, Shubhendu Chatterjee, Suchitra Sen and Supriya Devi dominated the Bengali cinema world.

While onscreen, I Aaj Bhi Throw Paisa Nahi Utha (Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar, 1975) and dialogues like Korbo, Albat Korbo, I Will Go to Top, The Top, Top (Nayak, Uttam Kumar in 1966) changed the actors. Gave. In Superstar, off screen, his larger-than-life images will be captured by hand-painted cutouts and posters.

Those who have witnessed the frenzy outside single-screen cinema halls in those days would remember how fans used to garland a hero’s cutout and throw slippers at a villain’s poster.

Painter Mahmood Alam is locally known as ‘Painter Mahmood’. (Express photo Shashi Ghosh)

With the advent of digital printing, however, the art of hand-painted film posters first took a backseat and then took a natural death as people like Mahmood Alam found themselves jobless.

After an illustrious career, 65-year-old Mahmood, known locally as ‘Painter Mahmood’, lives in an un-described, barely lit house in Kolkata’s Crematorium Street, which is replaced by a now-defunct gas crematorium. Got its name, the only- -like this in the city. Cremation and Mahmud have a striking resemblance – both were celebrated in the past, but now barely attract attention.

Mehmood was arguably the last artist in Kolkata who showed interest in learning the art of film poster making when he was 17. “I was a student at Islamia High School when studios in Kolkata used to give classes on painting banners and posters. I was in love with the film world and also enjoyed painting so I learned the art at a nearby studio.

Armed with the knowledge of hand-painted posters, Mahmood left in 1981 in search of a job for Siliguri, a much less competitive market. Back in the days, when primetime news channels were flooded with obscure stories from the industry, Bollywood was considered a platform for dreamers.

The superhit film Andha Kanoon helped two such dreamers – Rajinikanth, who made his Bollywood debut with this film, and Mehmood, who had created a banner for the film in Siliguri.

Mahmood says, although there was a brief period of peace for a month, there was no looking back after that one poster. “After successfully creating a poster, I was confident that I would get employment and soon, the owner of Jhankar Hall in Siliguri hired me and provided a place to set up his studio in the premises of the hall. I also had staff to assist me,” Mahmood claimed.

Alam Painter Mahmood Alam has been painting for 65 years (Express Photo Shashi Ghosh)

His fame grew and the word of his artistry spread to Kathmandu, Nepal. “In those days, Shambhu Pradhan was a big Nepali director. He approached me and asked me to make posters of his films. He also asked me to leave Siliguri and stay in Kathmandu but I refused. However, I started making posters for Nepali films as well.

Talking about the process of making cutouts and posters, Mahmood said that the trick was to make a graph. “We will have a picture for reference on which we will draw a graph. First an equal number of grids will be drawn on a blank poster or cutout and then the images will be painted by hand,” he said.

While Mahmud painted cutouts of almost all actors of the time, his personal favorite was Dilip Kumar. “No one has matched Dilip sahab. The aura around him was enough to draw the crowd and I loved making his cutouts the most,” he said.

All was well for Mahmud until a wave of development occurred at the beginning of the century, which resulted in fresh air but left many like Mahmud unemployed. “I still tried my best. Shifted to banners and posters of shops, but it was getting tough and finally in 2010 I came back to Kolkata,” he said.

Now, Mahmud gets the job only when he is asked to paint a wall with some political graffiti. But no work is small, the artist says. “One day I was making a mural Mamata Banerjee When someone clicked a picture on a wall. I called him over and said why click only the picture of the painting? Don’t you want to show the world who painted it? I don’t know what happened and he said that he will find work for me. After a few days, he came back and said that he has got a job for me in a Durga Puja pandal,” he said.

Mehmood is in the news again this year after hand-painting hoardings and posters for the themed Durga Puja at Nalin Sarkar Street in north Kolkata. Although Mahmud’s works won the praise of the worship committee, the painter continues to live in poverty.

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