June 6, 2016
This article is the eighth and concluding in a series of articles featuring movie posters from across India, released and unreleased works too, for their merit.
Court is a 2015 Indian courtroom drama directed by debutant Chaitanya Tamhane. It is a tragicomedy that documents the life of a social activist accused of inciting a sewage worker’s death. In an older interview, we came across this statement from Chaitanya which describes his vision of Court: “It felt like the complete opposite of what I, as an audience, would expect from a courtroom film; the lawyers were not good orators, the documents were misplaced, the arguments were technical and redundant. I was amused by this setting, and decided to probe further.”
There were four posters designed for this film in total – one for Venice (International Film Festival), a second for other International film festivals, one for its release in India, and one for the Marathi audience. We got in touch with Somnath Pal (who designed the International posters) and Pigeon & Co. (who did the Indian poster) and asked them why such an elaborate process was employed.
“The design process was quite organic. There wasn’t a formal brief,” says Saurabh Malhotra of Pigeon & Co. “With the film itself being the starting point, the first set of concepts came from our interpretation.” “Different things appeal to different people,” added Somnath. “We thought that the Marathi crowd wouldn’t really take to an illustrated poster; it would look like an animated film or some other sort, and we didn’t want to give that impression.”
The shadowy first poster was created for Venice. The remorseful face tells the story of the protagonist’s struggle, but looked too serious and the idea of comedy was lost in it. Although it is a serious film, it never gets preachy. The second poster was designed after the film had received a fair bit of acclaim. This captured the vulnerability of the peculiar characters in the film better.
“It is very contextual and if you see the film and then see this poster: with a lawyer with chopped cucumber on his eyes, a judge wearing a t-shirt and a female public prosecutor wearing a lawyer’s cloak over her night-dress, you get it [the comedic tone],” explained Somnath.
Although the story is in Marathi, both Saurabh and Somnath asserted that the film isn’t regional but is ‘universal’. “The film is set in a context that I believe almost everyone in India can associate with. The film is set in Mumbai and has plenty of Maharashtrian nuances. Having lived here for over a decade now, we could relate to it very well,” said Saurabh.
Nishikant Palande, whom Pigeon & Co. commissioned for this project, did the illustrations for the Indian posters. It has a simple layout, minimal colour palette, sans serif logotype, a centre-heavy symmetry and a flat colour treatment; all keeping in mind the simplicity of the film. It is risky, as an illustrated poster for an indie film could easily make the film seem too niche for common appetite, but it “seemed like a risk worth taking and luckily it paid off,” says Saurabh.
A version of this article was published in Kyoorius 27.