Mumbai’s poster boys

It was Haji Abu’s grandfather, and then his father, who passed on their love for Hindi cinema to him. Mr. Abu turned his hobby into his profession, opening the Poster Shop some time in the early 1990s. Twenty or so years later, his tiny shop at Chor Bazaar (91-98704-40970) is crammed with thousands of old film posters, lobby cards and assorted film memorabilia, Mr. Abu explained as he showed off carefully preserved ticket stubs for blockbuster movies from the 1960s and ’70s.

Chor Bazaar, meaning ‘thieves market’ was once the place where stolen goods found their way. Now, it is where locals go to pick up anything that can be remotely called antique – old remodeled furniture, unusual silver and brassware, clocks and lamps, faded statues and paintings. It spans the length of Mutton Street and a couple of parallel lanes in the heart of South Mumbai’s bustling Mohammad Ali Road.

Classics like Mother India and Sholay loom large on the makeshift walls of the Poster Shop. “In those days, the posters were larger-than-life, just as the movies themselves,” says Abu. The best part about shopping at Abu’s is his thorough knowledge about the posters and the movies they promote. He is happy to share trivia on any movie, however obscure. The Poster Shop has both originals and copies – the former, painstakingly and lovingly painted by hand for hours and even days, a rarity in this age of instant computer graphics.

Haji Abu (91-98704-40970) counts among his regular customers collectors from all over the world – USA, Canada, UK, and of course all over India. As we talk, he proudly shows an article about him in a local newspaper and then a glossy booklet from a film exhibition in Canada where his posters were used. He rolls and packs these posters carefully in hardboard tubes so they can be carried anywhere.

Although Abu’s shop does not stock much material from English movies, A-1 Corner and Bollywood Bazaar further down the road have these on offer, all the way from The Tramp to Godfather, via James Bond. The best time to visit Chor Bazaar is on a weekday afternoon (avoid Fridays), when the streets are quieter and the vendors have more time to chat. Even though most shopkeepers speak basic English, it is best take a long a local who can bargain in true Mumbai style.

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This was published originally in the travel blog of the New York Times a few months ago. Read Hindi Cinema, in Poster Form, at a Mumbai Shop in the NY Times.

Also read: A walk in Chor Bazaar

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