India’s Incredibly Cool Hand-Drawn Movie Posters

Ramachandraiah prints movie posters for a living. He’s done it ever since 1971, when he bought an ancient lithograph press. He keeps it in a factory north of Bangalore, far from the English town where it was built 111 years ago.

Most movie posters here are lavish. They’re digitally-printed, full-color, and reach up to 30 feet long.

Ramachandraiah’s posters aren’t.

His are five-color, hand-drawn, and measure just 20 inches by 30 inches. They’re printed on thin paper, and illegally slapped up on building sites and highway overpasses late at night. They cost pennies to print. And they’re absolutely gorgeous.

In his small store-front, filled with shrines to a famous Kannada actor, Ramachandraiah sat me down with a tiny cup of coffee, and plucked two biscuits from a package.

“You must dip them,” he said, miming a biccie-dunk. “Now tell me what you want!”

It had taken me a month to track his shop down. I’d finally found it, hidden in a maze-like neighborhood of local movie theaters and one-shop film distributors.

I wanted copies of the posters — all of them — especially the American ones.

But more than that, I wanted my own poster. I wanted to commission one. (See the sweet new batch of Indian film posters at this more recent post.)

“Okay, okay, drink your coffee,” he said. “We will discuss.”

Outside on the sidewalk, the artist Raju set aside the poster he’d just finished for a Hindi-dubbed 3D run of Underworld: Awakening. He immediately started on another. Raju draws a poster every three hours. In a week, he creates campaigns for dozens of movies.

He traces movie stills or posters, or ads from the paper. Sometimes he just eyeballs other flyers for the same films. And I love the drama, the movement, the passion that he’d capture in his posters. I also loved the color. From one print to the next, it changes as the litho inks mix and combine.

The poster I most wanted was for Poultrygeist, the fowl gross-out musical I made a decade ago with my childhood hero Lloyd Kaufman. I wanted a Kannada original.

“What does Poultrygeist mean,” Ramachandraiah asked.

“Poultry means chicken,” said Raju.

“Yes, but cock? Or hen? And what is this geist? Like ghost? Or geist?”

Ramachandraiah pulled out an old dictionary, and started leafing through it. Raju flipped through a collection of printed publicity stills I’d brought. They argued about which ones would work best.

“Is there a Kannada title,” Ramachandraiah asked, quickly penning one in the local script. He pointed to each word as he translated it. “Night. Chicken. Ghost.

– –

A week later, I returned. The hundred posters were shoved in a corner, rolled up in a tight pile. Again, Ramachandraiah sat me down with a small cup of coffee and two biscuits, while his son unrolled the package.

“Dip the biscuits,” he urged.

His son held up the top poster.

“What do you think? Do you like it?”

I loved it.

I loved it so much, I ordered more. I couldn’t resist commissioning posters for some of my favorite other movies. (Check back in a week to see how they come out! Here’s a hint: Peter Lorre, Nicholas Cage, Orson Welles, Jessica Harper and Molly Ringwald.)

What movies would you choose? What stills would work best for this? And let me know if you’d like one.

Here are some more of Raju and Ramachandraiah’s wonderful ad campaigns…

117 thoughts on “India’s Incredibly Cool Hand-Drawn Movie Posters”

  1. I’d love one! Truth be told, I’ve written a book and would love to have a poster made of it in that style! Let me know if something can be worked out.

  2. I honestly love all of them… Especially the Harry Potter and the one with the woman bleeding from her head with her fist up.

    I would order any and all that he offered. Want. No, sorry—need. Let me know if we can somehow get in touch with him.

  3. But, to follow up, I’d love to see (and buy) any of these poster-ed:

    The Royal Tenenbaums
    Sunset Boulevard
    Clockwork Orange
    Wall-E
    Annie Hall
    Big
    Fight Club
    The Breakfast Club
    Bill Cunningham New York
    Office Space

    1. Oh, those would be fantastic! I’d love to see how a young Woody Allen would translate into one of these! And any noir film, I think would be just fantastic. (Sunset Boulevard could be perfect… the vampy climactic staircase-descent?!) They’re doing a 16 Candles poster right now… I’m still waiting for pix of it (and to get back to Bangalore to get my hands on it and the others… just three weeks!) What image would you use from Royal Tenenbaums, tho??? And how about a Dating Brian poster? ;P

  4. Wow! These look gorgeous. Would make for an excellent gift for a friend. I live in Bangalore. Dean – could you please share Ramachandraiah’s contact number/address with me. Thanks.

  5. I need one of these posters in my life!!!! The Sixteen Candles one is breathtaking. I would also love to see and buy one of the following:

    Sharktopus
    The Muppet Movie
    Breakfast Club
    Royal Tenenbaums
    The Hunger Games (I know it’s not out yet!)
    Empire Records

    I am 100% serious about buying copies of these amazing posters!

  6. many have found them wonderful here but the streets don’t look good when they are pasted. and i live in bangalore. i want them to be removed

    1. I’ll see what I can do about getting them sent away, overseas!!! ;P Sorry… I understand how you might feel. But at the same time, they’re so absolutely unique and gorgeous!

  7. Would LOVE a Poultrygeist poster and any others you could send. let me know how I can pay and if this is possible. thanks so much.

  8. Thanks so much for posting these! I worked in Bangalore for a year and loved seeing the new posters every week on my commute to work. So happy to see images of more of them and find out who makes them. I have photos of a few more on my flickr feed too.

    1. Those ones on your flickr feed are great!!! I love the all-blue Mummy 3, and I had NO IDEA there was a Keanu Reeves remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still. Yowza!!!

    1. I’ll be posting some info in the next few days — still working out shipping. (Can’t even find cardboard tubes for sale in Beijing… hoping that I can find some in Bangalore and start taking orders next week, instead.)

  9. These are so amaaazing! Could I purchase one that’s made to order please? Already have a spot marked out for it at home and everything!!

  10. I love seeing his posters around Bangalore and I love your cult classic series. Great project. Is there any way to buy a couple of them from you locally — without having them shipped from China?

  11. These are truly amazing posters.
    Can we commission other posters to the artist? Are you the middle-man for that?
    I have titles I’d really love to see done by him.
    Jacques Tati films (Jour de fete/ My Uncle/ Mr Hulot’s holidays) any of these
    Andrei Tarkovsky films (Stalker / Solaris)
    Frankenstein (original James Whale movie with Boris Karloff)
    Godard films (A bout de souffle/ Alphaville/ Pierrot le fou)
    Melville films (Le Samourai)
    Among other…

    besides, can you contact me on my email Dean, so that I can order a batch of several posters directly from you?

    1. I’m not a middleman, but I might get more done…. those are some amazing ideas (and I’d been thinking about a New Wave series — lots of Antione Doinel… ;P ) M. Hulot would be fantastic, as well…

      You can order the existing posters from http://asiaobscura.com/store, although I’ll be shutting the store down for two weeks, in about 48 hours. (I’ll be traveling, so won’t be able to send any out.)

      Thx!

  12. Hello! I loved your post. I would love to write about Ramachandraiah and his art for a piece I’m writing about artists’ interpretations of movie posters. Do you have an email address for him?

    1. Hi Serena, sorry but afaik he doesn’t have email. (I’ll ask him next time I’m in Bangalore, but he’s an old man using a 1901 piece of machinery. Not your top gmail candidate. ;P) If you’re in BLR, though, I’d gladly email you directions to his shop….

      1. Thanks so much for your reply! I would love to reference your interview in my article. If that’s okay with you, what name do you prefer I use? Best, Serena

        1. That’d be fine! Be sure to send me a link! And why don’t you call me the real one: Andy Deemer. 🙂 Thanks!!

  13. Hi Dean,
    Iam based in Mumbai. I want to get some posters done with him. could you send me his email id and telephone nos. Would be quite greatful

  14. Great site ….I love this focus on the posters
    Can you please send me directions the place where they make these movie posters !!
    I will be eternally grateful !!

    I”m working in Bangalore now…in sleepy Whitefield

    Thanks…love your site

  15. These are incredible! Are you able to get some on order? How much? 🙂 I tried the link for your store page but it’s not working. These are super amazing, my husband is an artist and if you’re willing to act as a go-between I’d LOVE to order some myself (and happy to pay you something for your time as well).

    1. Hi Mia! Sorry, but I’ve gotten this request a bunch of times, and after a lot of consideration decided I couldn’t add this to my workload. 🙁 (It wouldn’t be easy.) If you guys come to Bangalore, though, I’d love to take (or send) you there!!! I sold out of almost all of my posters, and moved myself into a storage unit, so took down the store. Sorry!!! But LOVE that you like them!!! 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for the reply… but MAN WHAT A BUMMER! Hubs would have loved some horror movie posters (the classics, Jason, Freddy etc). Well… if you ever need some pocket money or want an art trade (www.thedarkcloak.com), shoot me a message, I would absolutely be up for this anytime since going to Bangalore is not a possibility in my lifetime I think 🙂 And thanks for sharing these amazing things! I’ve only just found your site today and managed to waste about 7 hours 😛

        1. I’ll definitely let you know if I’m heading back for more posters… And thanks for the lovely words!!! 😛

  16. Wow! I’m so jealous Andy! I’ve been scraping those posters off the walls since I arrived in Bangalore 10 months ago to hang them with pride in my living room. Now you’re telling me you got Ramachandraiah’s details? would you dare sharing is address with me? That would be much appreciated!

  17. Hi there, I know I’m late to this party but in case you’re still around, I work for Rupert Wyatt who directed RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. He loves the poster for his film, is there any way we could get a couple or even one? Happy to pay! Would love it if you could email me and let me know how that might be accomplished? Or if anyone has any information on how to acquire one from the US? Many many thanks x

    1. Hi! Sorry, but the only copy I have right now is in a storage unit somewhere in China. I’ll keep an eye out for another copy, though — I do stop by Ramachandraiah’s office occasionally…

  18. Hey, I just stumbled across your site, absolutely fantastic stuff. I love in India (New Delhi). Is there a way one could get these posters shipped to my end in Delhi (or is there a way to contact this poster-artist). It would be lovely if you could email me regarding this. Thanks

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