Life | Megha Solanki
The streets of Mumbai haven’t changed much through the years. Maybe the cars have upgraded and the fashion changed but it is still the hustle and bustle of crowds that paint the posters of a colourful Mumbai. It’s grey skies and cold rains that surround the narrow lanes of the busy city on a Friday afternoon that I walk on the sides of a bustling bazaar that is so close to defining Mumbai’s markets. Chor Bazaar has a long history that can take up several thousands of words in its retelling. It’s a place known for finding different things from antique pieces of furniture to brand knock-offs of shoes to a beautiful lamp that graces the living room of my house. But there is a shop in one of the corners of the many streets of Chor Bazaar that is the highlight of the rainy afternoon of exploration. A part of this Bazaar that is known but not that frequently thought of when talking of the place is the film poster market. It is that colourful corner of the Bazaar which is a haven for Bollywood films enthusiasts who wander about in search for those pieces of art that are vintage filmi posters.
Poster Stuff is a small shop sequestered with other tiny shops on Mutton Street. It stands out, though – the glass walls are covered in prints of huge film posters that feel so bright and never fading. On sunny days, there are stands put up outside the shop showcasing some of these prints but on rainy days like this particular afternoon they are lined up against the stacks of covered posters, offering sneaky previews of what lays hidden in these pillars of soft paper. It’s a small space but filled to the brim with Bollywood memorabilia – a mix of paper sticking out, records, colours and people like me gawking at all of it. There’s the musty smell of old paper that one finds in library books, the soft scent that reflects the faded paint of movie titles on expensive paper. There’s not many things that I know about films but with an older brother who is into the cinematic phenomenon of Bollywood classics, one is bound to pick up a few things. Which is why it’s so exciting to find posters of familiar titles lined up in all its majestic beauty.
Growing up in the digital age means that for people like me, being surrounded by digital posters and graphic, printed large scale movie posters that are stuck on top of multiplexes. Entering Poster Stuff though is in some ways a move away from this digital era, straight to a time where there are paints and words written in different fonts, worked through by hand on rolls of paper, creating a moment that feels so real. It may sound exaggerated poetry but even for a film novice like me, it’s true. The shop is a trove of these original posters along with many reprints of movies that I’ve watched a million times plus those of movies that I’ve never heard of before.
The people managing the shop are friendly and enthusiastic about telling wanderers like me what this space holds. There’s a smile that welcomes you in and eager conversation filled with stories of posters that have been come and gone through the shop. I ask about the posters that they have and the people that come to buy them. We talk while different posters are being pulled out to be shown. There’s a reprint of Deewar that I can’t stop staring at and one of Guide that’s fascinating enough for me to ask for its price. So here’s the thing about Poster Stuff – you can find reprints of film posters starting at 100 rupees and you have to shell out more if you are looking for originals. It’s hard to find the originals though. We talk about how they source original posters. According to them, it’s a long process of asking their contacts, who are placed all over the country and sometimes abroad too. Sometimes it takes months to find an original poster. He gave an example of hunting for an original poster of the film Sholay for a collector. He compared it to treasure hunting, where he almost near gave up but one of his contacts came through and he was able to locate the poster. He didn’t disclose the price but hinted that it was sold for a huge amount of money. It made me realize how much of a serious business poster collection is. It’s a long chain of film buffs, collectors, contacts in the film industries and people who work in shops like Poster Stuff coming together to find these pieces of art.
The poster market of Chor Bazaar are all compiled of shops like Poster Stuff and they don’t just cater to Indian film buffs. There is a huge global market that opens itself up to showcase these posters. The people at Poster Stuff talk about international exhibitions where they have put up many of the original posters that they have collected over the years. They also talk about their regular customers who are not based in the country but make it a point to visit the shop every time they come to India just to find something new to add to their collection. On the rainy afternoon that I visited, an Austrian couple was there in the shop, browsing through the stacks, commenting on the posters and films that I didn’t even know about. The people of Poster Stuff are quite friendly and they have extensive knowledge about Bollywood films. Maybe this was why it was so easy for them to spot a greenhorn like me. The awkwardness of the rainy afternoon when I first entered this shop soon disappeared with them answering my questions and offering poster trivia that is now influencing my growing desire to know more about Bollywood posters and its vast reach. It was a great experience and I left the place happy with my new discoveries and that Deewar reprint which now decorates my brother’s wall.
About the Writer
Megha Solanki is a MCPH student studying English Literature. She can’t choose between Disney and Pixar and obsesses over the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She spends her time reading fanfiction. Her favorite movie right now is Miracle In Cell No. 7 and she recommends it to everyone reading this profile.