August 20, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Brian Collins Analyzes Horror Posters in India

Dr. Brian Collins holds a horror film poster from India.

Dr. Brian Collins and memorabilia dealer Shahid Mansoori at Chor Bazaar in Mumbai.

As the home to the world’s largest film industry, India is littered with movie posters, most of them advertising typical Bollywood-style musicals. But for the last decade or so, Dr. Brian Collins, the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy, has taken an interest in a different type of film poster: the horror film.

In August, after leading a four-week study abroad in rural India for OHIO students called “India: Gender, Culture, and Development,” Collins took a short research trip to Mumbai’s bazaars to track down what was left of these rapidly disappearing posters from the ’80s and ’90s, the vast majority of which have been lost or destroyed.

Indian horror film poster: Papi Gudiya (“The Sinful Doll,” 1996)

Papi Gudiya (“The Sinful Doll,” 1996)

India is divided into 11 film distribution zones, each with an “A circuit” for the wide release of Bollywood-style blockbusters, a “B circuit” for re-releases of classic Bollywood films and new low-budget genre films, and a “C circuit” for exploitation cinema. The horror posters Collins has been analyzing come from the B and C circuits and use classical aesthetics of rasa or “flavor” to aggressively advertise their promised thrills and chills.

The classical rasas are the erotic, the comic, the horrifying, the violent, the pathetic, the heroic, the terrifying, and the marvelous. Strangely enough, this elevated classical aesthetic philosophy, meant for stage plays, is represented faithfully in these disposable works of low-brow culture.

Indian horror film poster: Three: Bhayaanak Bhootani (“The Terrifying Ghosts,” 2001)

Three: Bhayaanak Bhootani (“The Terrifying Ghosts,” 2001)

After presenting a paper on the connection between Hindu religion and Hindi horror film posters at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in 2016, Collins has written two essays for an upcoming book on the subject edited by Ellen Goldberg and Aditi Sen of Queen’s University in Canada.

He also has been working with David Colagiovanni, director of the Athens Center for Film and Video, to preserve the posters collected in India and to display them on campus in an exhibition accompanied by a lecture and screening when the book is published.

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