Interview: Gautam Barat - Tollywood's Top Poster Designer Reminds Us of Importance of the Poster as Representation of the Film

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[GOUTAM BARAT Poster Designer]Washington D.C., May 7, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Gautam Barat is the premier professional poster designer for Bengali films for over 30 years. Gautam talks to Arijit Chakraborty on Washington Bangla Radio in this intimate, informal and candid interview about his career in poster design, aspects of designing posters, the film industry, changing trends and much more.

Gautam has designed over 600 posters so far, and his recent work includes films by producers like Shree Venkatesh and Eskay Films and films like Bhorer Alo, Unish Kurir Galpo , Ogo Bideshini, Moner Manush and so on.

Gautam's father was also in the profession, and given the existing network and his sense of innate talent, Gautam started working at eighteen for a few producers until, over time, he built up his career. He works by himself, without any team, and believes that creativity is primarily an individual factor. He has worked with every major Bengali movie director and producer except, to his regret, Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, and now also works with new-comers and younger directors. Having designed posters for over 600 movies, Gautam finds it almost impossible for him to decide on his favorite posters, but having worked with major directors of various genres, he has learned a lot from his interactions with these film-makers, learning something from their intellect, education, and knowledge-base every time.

Gautam has seen vast changes in poster production technology. Manual posters used to be much more laborious when the work of creating layers and typography used to be all by hand. Now, with computer software, the same processes are completed with much more ease. Mistakes can be erased more easily, and new technologies allow new types of creativity. On the other hand, Mr. Barat says, manual posters always had an individuality, specific markers of the poster makers, producers, directors etc. That individuality has been lost in modern poster creation technology. In addition, the skill and artistic sense that is vital to any creative work has now become devalued because reproduction of a picture on a background is considered to be a poster. People have forgotten that a poster is a representation of a movie. The process of poster creation, and the quality of the poster content has been compromised, the individuality of the past productions lost. Mr. Barat believes that the because the poster production process has become so mechanical, artists now merely use available fonts, but do not have the creativity to produce new fonts or typography.

According to Mr. Barat, creation of a poster sometimes takes a whole day or more, and sometimes inspiration comes in minutes. In addition, mentally switching from genre to genre also becomes a matter of experience and habit. When making a poster, genre (format of the story) is given first consideration, and then the story is used to attract the audience. The size of the poster is always a concern, but the designer is also always concerned with how to best utilize the available space, what will attract a passerby who will walk away with an initial impression, and how to create inquisitiveness in the audience so that it will pay attention to the details the next time. Color, typography, and logo fonts are some of the major aspects of this creation process. Initial posters might only hold the name of the movie, so how that word is displayed becomes the focus of that poster since it has to carry the message necessary to attract an  audience. If the faces of the hero and heroine alone are used, a feel of the story is provided; if a larger number of people are presented in the poster, the picture must create a drama; if a well known actor's face is used, that is done for the fame factor and not to present the story or the drama.  Increasingly, poster creation involves separate photoshoots which are meant only for advertising purposes and include shots which may not show up in the movie itself. Photoshoots enable much more sophisticated formats of advertising, and the audience is more drawn to these new, glitzier formats. The advantage of photoshoots also is that the same picture can be used for multiple purposes by changing backgrounds, typography, color schemes etc.

In develped countries, Gautam says, poster design and artistry is considered a field by itself needing training and expertise, but in India, poster artists are not given a lot of credence. This is unfortunate, according to Mr. Barat, because creativity is simply not about using the computer; effective design of movie posters involves a serious responsibiltiy on the part of the designer because a wide range of audience across classes and knowledge-base has to be impacted by the poster, particularly the audience that has not yet made up its mind must be influenced by the poster to a significant extent. The same holds true of posters for alternative movies; the posters represent the cerebral factors that will draw an audience looking for parallel and art-house films. Movie posters themselves are, thus, a significantly creative aspect of ensuring a movie's success. In the end, creating an effective poster, Gautam points out, is about composition irrespective of what kind of technology is used or is available.