1949. Just before the popular Raj Kapoor and Nargis starrer love story Barsaat was to release, a studio in the bylanes of Bombay’s Shivaji Park was bustling with activity. Sambanand Monappa Pandit was busy painting a poster. The image of a heroine hanging on a hero’s arm was to become a critically-acclaimed masterpiece. Such was its appeal that Kapoor made this image the logo for RK Films, which enjoys an iconic status today. The offset lithography poster, acquired from a private collector, will go under the hammer as part of art auction house Osian’s event “The Greatest Indian Show on Earth” on Friday in Mumbai.
The collection, curated by Osian’s chairperson and founder Neville Tuli, will also feature a signed poster of Devika Rani, three posters of Baiju Bawra from Arun Puranik’s family collection, and 23 33 rpm LP gramophone records featuring Kapoor.
Tuli, who is riding high on the response to the last auction of film memorabilia in 2012 — curated by him — believes that there is increased awareness ever since. “It all began to help place India’s cinematic heritage of film memorabilia, artworks and publicity materials, at the heart of our popular culture. Transforming a love for cinema into a cinematic culture is a vast journey. We are still away from genuine maturity, but the process is on,” says Tuli. He believes that things have changed in the last decade in terms of buyers. “The current collector profile is a film fan or an enthusiast, a working professional, and within the fraternity Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao being the most well-known. When the film fraternity gets involved, the respect for cinema’s heritage grows. This is how Hollywood maintains its leadership, because they respect the work of others and are willing to pay for that piece of history,” says Tuli.
But if this piece of cinematic history is being treated as art, doesn’t it come with a baggage of being an investment?
“The investment aspect is inevitable. The maturity of the market will decide whether appreciation occurs in the short or medium terms, though all significant objects of fine and popular arts and antiquities appreciate in the long run.
That ensures that specific history is respected, documented and researched by members of the academia and intelligentsia,” says Tuli.
Other highlights from the collection include the smallest designed ticket (Pakeezah), the original hand-painted hoardings (Yahudi) and posters (Anand, Safar, Mother India) to rare photographic stills (Baarish and Sazaa) and hand-signed artworks (Dilip Kumar signed artwork from Gunga Jumna).
The event will also be studded with advertising posters and calendars created for beedis, soaps and incense sticks, some featuring Hema Malini and Nargis.
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