A man with a typewriter sits facing a pair of long bare legs. The text “The legend of porn writing is back”, is inscribed below. This and many such racy images make for the marketing campaign of Mastram, set to release soon. Directed by Gangs of Wasseypur writer Akhilesh Jaiswal, Mastram is the fictional biopic of a reluctant erotica writer in the ’80s, whose works — available at bookstalls at railways stations and bus stops across north India — stoked the imagination of young boys.
“Mastram wrote erotica that most of us in the Hindi-speaking belt grew up reading. To publicise the film, I wanted someone who understood Mastram’s works, which titillated without being explicit,” says Jaiswal. Accordingly, he sought out someone who would design a campaign that generates curiosity among the audience without offending sensibilities.
Thirty-six-year-old Kunal Naik, a freelance designer, was thus roped in to create the look of the film based on the anonymous writer’s life. “I saw the first cut of the film and figured it had to depict eroticism without being vulgar. That’s when the idea of raising the alphabet ‘A’ in the title, indicative of a phallic symbol, came about,” says Naik, who has worked on the publicity of films such as Mumbai Meri Jaan and Dombivali Fast. With a dozen posters already out on various social media platforms and newspapers, one does get a sense of the film’s tone and theme. Naik also read books by Mastram, which producer Sunil Bohra and Jaiswal had collected for the film’s research. The covers of these books also made it to the first publicity poster — a collage of compelling titles.
But how did the team conceive the idea of making multiple posters with a single brief in mind? “When we started working on the publicity material, we never had a number in mind. As ideas kept coming, we decided to have a series of posters to keep the excitement going,” says Naik, who has used motifs such as a rose, a pen’s nib and books in his artwork.
For instance, in one of the posters, there is a silhouette of a woman dancing around a pole that resembles a pen. In another, a pen’s nib becomes the piercing on a woman’s navel. According to Naik, most of the posters don’t show people and only focus on suggestive objects, which kindles one’s imagination.
Even as he plans to release about 35 posters in the run-up to the film’s release in May, Naik is more excited about the series of posters that will be brought out after the film hits the theatres. “By then, people would have seen the film and we can experiment with the design further,” he says.