Article published on the 2009-04-11 Latest update 2009-04-11 16:20 TU
Paris may be a long way from the Indian port city of Mumbai, but fans of Indian cinema can now bring Bollywood closer to home, thanks to two Frenchwomen. Wherever you are living, you can now order a hand-painted movie poster in which you yourself are the leading character.
Sarah Loosdregt and Sophie Legoubin, who set up Limona Studio in the French capital, charge customers an average of 600 euros for posters that are painted by artists in Mumbai.
You just send in a photo of the person you want immortalised on canvas and they organise the rest. You can choose a poster style they have in their catalogue, or design one yourself.
Customers come from far afield, including the US, Switzerland, Italy and England, but they all have one thing in common: they love Bollywood.
Legoubin first went to India with her parents when she was four-years-old and now goes at least once a year.
“We love India and go there often," she says. "We didn’t just want to be tourists, we wanted to get to know Indian people. We like Bollywood movies, so we went to India to find the artists who painted the movie posters. Now, when we go, we stay with their families. It’s very interesting. We discover how Indian people live day to day.”
Loosdregt and Legoubin group their orders, then organise a trip to Mumbai.
“The idea is to work directly with the painters, not to do things by email,” Legoubin explains. “We can only work with one of the painters by email, and we can’t just work with one painter.”
India's cinema industry used to pump out thousands of hand-painted posters and banners every year, but the posters are now designed on computers.
Many of the artists who used to work for the cinema industry now paint election posters and divinities and some have had to turn their hands to painting and decorating.
The Frenchwomen work with three artists: Suresh Sandal, Deepak Naresh and Sheikh Rehman. Only Rehman is still painting posters for an Indian cinema, the “Alfred Talkies” in Mumbai’s red light district.
“These artists are now 60 or 65-years-old,” Loosdregt says. “Two of our painters don’t speak English. They are artisans. The boys became painters like their fathers and, now that they have children, they are sad because they can’t teach their art to their children. It’s finished. After them, there’s nobody.”
The painters work in oils on a strong canvas that they guarantee will last literally hundreds of years.
“If we want an action poster, we ask Rehman because he’s used to painting huge banners with a lot of explosions and weapons,” Legoubin explains. “If we want a romantic wedding poster we ask Deepak.”
Rehman paints in the brightest of colours, Deepak Naresh tends to use pastels, and Suresh Sandal has a gift for realism.
“Customers can put anything they like in their poster: their pets, their house, their car,” Loosdregt says. “A lot of people order posters for a wedding or a wedding anniversary gift. One man bought one to give to his girlfriend when he proposed.”
Loosdregt has her own Bollywood poster at home. “My whole family is on it. My husband is bald, but in the poster he has loads of brown hair and a moustache – very Indian. There are my two kids and some action scenes, like a dance and a fight. Very, very Bollywood.”
The painters from Mumbai have been artists in residence in France. They took part in the Bombaysers festival in Lille in 2006 and their posters depicting local people were displayed throughout the city. Forty people, including shopkeepers, sports personalities and a local headmistress, were transformed – on canvas at least – into glittering Bollywood stars.
“The painters also came to a big London dance festival,” Legoubin says. “They made huge banners and people were dancing on the canvas. They love to come and share their know-how.”
While the Bollywood painters are less and less able to live from their art, hand-painted posters of classic movies like Mother India are featuring in exhibitions in India and abroad.
For Sarah Loosdregt and Sophie Legoubin, the aim is to keep the art alive. “We want to spread the word about these painters, to support and promote them so that they can continue to work,” Loosdregt says.
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