In December last year, while compiling a list of 2018’s best movie posters from across the country, I happened to discover the lovely posters of Seethakathi and 96 – both created by designer Gopi Prasannaa.
While his work was a revelation to me, Gopi has been a veteran movie poster designer in Chennai for years now. He’s worked with some of the most sought-after filmmakers in Tamil cinema – from Mani Ratnam (OK Kanmani, Kaatru Veliyidai, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam) and AR Murugadoss (Kathithi, Sarkar) to Bala (Paradesi) and Gautham Menon (Enai Noki Paayum Thota).
Gopi has worked across diverse fields and mediums – from gaming and programming to branding and advertising. His career in film publicity design began quite by chance, when his friend and filmmaker Thiagarajan Kumararaja approached him to work on the campaign for his debut feature Aaranya Kaandam (2011). The film proved to be a breakthrough, not only going on to be a cult-hit among film lovers, but also a landmark film campaign at its time – with its starkly distinctive and clutter breaking look, heavily inspired by graphic novels.
It’s only apt then, that the two have collaborated again on Super Deluxe, Kumararaja’s (insanely hyped) second feature film which releases in cinemas this week. The poster for the film is a thing of beauty – intricately constructed using a combination of photographs and illustration – and full of intriguing little details and easter eggs, that we expect shall unravel when we watch the film. We had a chat with Gopi on what it took to make the poster.
Tell us about your experience working with Kumararaja. How involved is he in the design process and is it different from working with other filmmakers?
I didn’t know that something called publicity design even existed in the movie industry when I started working on Aaranya Kaandam. My passion and interest towards art and design drove me to work on the project and somehow, I managed to crack it. We really did not know that it will be a trendsetter.
Thanks to the success of Aaranya Kaandam, movie offers started pouring in. At first, I was super intimidated because the movie industry was still completely new to me. Working with Kumararaja was easy because he was my friend, but I finally took the plunge. By the time I started working on Super Deluxe, I had done 45 movies.
Working with Kumararaja is a very different and special experience. We both leave our egos at the doorstep and brainstorm for hours together. We challenge each other, we try to race each other, we fight and argue. This is possible because we share one common goal – to create the best possible product. I have to be honest about this – I have learnt many things from him.
You mention in the ‘Making of the Poster’ video that the poster for Super Deluxe took almost 1.5 years to materialise. Tell us about the process – from the brief to the different routes you tried?
Kumararaja and I were both confident that the final poster will be something unique and stunning. The hardest piece to crack was deciding on what route to take. I tried different types of illustration styles, including the style found on currencies and a retro look. Landing on a definitive style is what took 1.5 years.
Unlike typical movie publicity campaigns where I create anywhere between 6-12 different posters – for Super Deluxe, I created only three posters. But as you’ll see, they are painstakingly intricate and of extremely high design quality. Since Kumararaja is both the director and the producer, he made this decision to go with quality rather than quantity.
What were your artistic influences for it and what were the medium(s) you used to create it?
I was inspired by old vintage lithograph art, which is a very intricate style. I used Rotring isograph pens to create the illustrations for the posters. I then scanned the handmade artwork, used Photoshop to layer on the images of the actors and then repainted the piece digitally. We also created a graffiti to visually depict the unique narrative in the trailer. It is the first time in South Indian cinema graffiti has been used in movie publicity.
The poster is packed with visual details, including Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa…
Yes, it’s a recreation of the Great Wave off Kanagawa. It’s sort of a character in the movie, as you will discover when you watch it. Many of the details in the poster are easter eggs.
Super Deluxe is shrouded in hype and secrecy and we’re sure you aren’t at liberty to reveal much about it, but what would you say people can expect from the film?
This film will be a completely new experience. It will be like a roller coaster ride. And going once won’t be enough. I think you’ll want to take many rides.
Who are some of the movie poster artists from anywhere in the world that you admire and draw inspiration from?
Honestly, I do not know many designers, but I do like Tom Martin and a few Japanese artists. Chennai used to be the hub for entire southern movie industry, which had many big movie studios. During that golden period of the movie industry, the city was filed with several stunning
hand-drawn movie hoardings that are still fresh in my mind and inspire me a lot. I was also inspired at a very young age by Maniyan Selvam’s famous illustrations in the Ananda Vikatan magazines.
Lastly, could you name a few of your favourite movie posters of all time – and any you liked recently?
My all time favourites would be the posters for Mani Ratnam’s Roja and Thiruda Thiruda. From Hollywood, there are Titanic, Jurassic Park and The Godfather. More recently, I quite liked the poster for AndhaDhun.