Somewhere on Mutton Street, in Bombay’s Chor Bazaar, sits a cave of musty sweetness. It’s filled with old movie posters, piled almost six feet high.
“You know V. Shataram, yes?” says the pint-sized operator, Khalim, who looks to be about twelve years old. “He’s fantastic, amazing,” he says, flailing his arms. “You must see his movies.” He dives into the center of a thousand posters, and flips through four before he lands on a Shantaram poster. “You must buy this. It’s beautiful!”
It was beyond beautiful. The film was Do Ankhen Barah Haath — Two Eyes, Twelve Hands — and it was the first Indian flick to be recognized by the Golden Globes.
Khalim saw I liked it, and dove into another pile. “You will like this one,” he said.
He was right. The 1983 Bollywood thriller, Kaun? Kaisey? (कौन? कैसे?? aka Who? How??) looks like a Saul Bass poster for a Hitchcock movie, starring an Indian Peter Lorre. You agree, right? Right!?! Crumbling, but absolute beauty!
Taking up half of one wall was another gorgeous poster, for Kala Mandal’s 1969 drama Balak. A child waves down an oncoming train. “Stop, stop,” he’s surely crying. Apparently you won’t leave the film without crying, either.
It’s weighed down by cans of reindeer and bear pate… the heaviest cans I had.
“Do you have any posters for Bobby,” I asked. Bobby was a superhit, starring legendary Rishi Kapoor as a psycho wooing Dimple to death. (I think it was supposed to be romantic at the time.) Khalim jumps into the piles again, and within minutes finds one. It reeked of the poster for Love Story, but I needed a copy.
“How much are these,” I asked. Most were 300 rupees, about $5, for originals. A handful were $15. They come from printers’ and studios’ warehouses, where they’ve been stacked up by the hundreds. Khalim and a few others shift them for dollars, while savvy dealers in the tony Bandra neighborhood sell the same prints for 50 or 100 times more.
“How about Amitabh Bachchan? Do you have any with him?”
A scanned reproduction of Don was $4, but an original (ahem, from the re-release) was only $15. Could I resist? Clearly not.
Down the street from Poster Stuff is another shop, A-1 Corner. They carry the same posters, and more. Hand-painted posters, hand-colored prints, lobby cards, photos, and even Indian posters for American films.
And there was so much more to be discovered here, as well…
Maa-Beta (1962, Mother-Son)
Notice the lipstick and painted eyelashes…
Phoolon Ki Sej (1964, Bed of Flowers)
Yeh Rastey Hain Ryar Ke (1963)
Starring Sanjay Dutt’s father, Sunil Dutt, as an airline pilot imprisoned for murdering the woman he loves.
Could I stop buying these? To be honest, I couldn’t. I felt like I’d miss out if I didn’t look through them all. But there were thousands, and my walls are few. So I promised: only a few more.
Like Subhadra Haraan (1964), with songs by Asha Bhosle. (Who am I kidding — these probably all have songs by Asha Bhosle.)
And the 1984 New Wave art film Party, which reminded me of those amazing Czech movie posters.
And the Japan Art Press Delhi poster for Devta…
There were more. Many more. I came out overloaded with rolls of crumbling and folded old posters for films I’d never seen. As I walked to the door, he called me back. “You want to see fun movies,” he asked — and then showed me these.
And could I really say no to those? I mean, she’s riding two horses at the same time!?!!
Oh, I also got an Indian Chaplin poster. Cos Indian Chaplin rocks.
Poster Stuff, 113 Mutton Street, Mumbai
A-1 Corner, 99 Mutton Street, Mumbai