Alternative Advertising and Cultures of Consumerism: A Newspaper Report on NSD’s Exhibition of Theatre Posters, 1979 by Kavita Nagpal
Advertisements through varied mediums are tools of spreading the consumerist culture. Amidst a practice of publicity and brand creation then, can one think of theatre as a mode of production? How does one navigate the traditionally participatory nature of theatre against the advertised ticketed audience arenas? Does it require unique and alternative advertising strategies and representation?
One can trace the evolution and experimental strategies of theatre advertising in the age of social media through print culture of the past, where these archives become a time capsule and point us towards a trend in consumerism and its impact on the arts with the advent of free market capitalism.
In September 1979, National School of Drama organized a one-of-its-kind exhibition in its gallery wall space. Theatre posters from India and abroad were on display, illuminating the evolution of theatre advertising through time, and articulating the terse relationship theatre shares with its contemporary visual culture.
As theatre personality and critic Kavita Nagpal writes in her review of the exhibit for the Business Standard (Sept. 18, 1979), “There is little that is aesthetic in the approach of the consumer industry. It is straight hard selling that fetches the gold. Perhaps this is what is missing in the cultural sphere.”
With examples such as of Bansi Kaul’s black and white poster for the ThreePenny Opera, Nagpal talks about the various ways in which theatre companies in India navigate budgetary restraints to advertise shows.
The exhibit’s brochure, designed meticulously by well known visual artist Jatin Das, raises an interesting question – can the creative aspiration of using ‘good art’ to advertise ‘good art’ be true in the intermingling of theatre and visual arts, given that the art and the theatre market function differently as well as constitute different publics?Alternative Advertising and Cultures of Consumerism- A Newspaper Report on NSD’s Exhibition of Theatre Posters, 1979 by Kavita Nagpal
All Courtesy: Anand Gupt Collection/Alkazi Theatre Archive