Advertising India’s Sandalwood Film Industry

November 16, 2023–April 14, 2024
Lithographic poster with a rainbow background of a man in sunglasses holding a gun.

While Indian cinema is most internationally renowned for its Hindi Bollywood films, Bangalore’s Kannada-language movie industry—affectionately dubbed “Sandalwood” after the region’s trees—has flourished in recent years. Here, low budget cinema thrives, and a fanatic culture is revealed through the inescapable presence of film in the urban landscape. On virtually any open surface—building sites, highway overpasses, bus stops—layers upon layers of film posters vie for the attention of passersby. Within this amalgam of text and movie stars, Ramachandraiah’s posters stand out. 

Since 1971, a printer known as Ramachandraiah has been running a small shop in Bangalore with his son, Raju, the shop’s resident artist. Using a lithographic press built in 1901, they create striking movie posters for single-screen cinemas across the city, often copied directly from the movie’s official promotional material. Featuring bold colors and charming hand-drawn images of the film’s stars, these posters encapsulate the essence of South Indian Kannada cinema—passionate, unpretentious, and all-for-profit—shining a light on India’s unique movie culture. 

Sophia Williamson is a paper conservator with experience researching and handling Indian miniature paintings. While working at Kapoor Galleries, she cataloged and managed the gallery’s extensive collection of ancient and classical Indian and Himalayan art, as well as co-curated Poster House’s recent Air-India show. She now works as conservation technician with Andrea Pitsch Conservation.

Carly Johnson gained knowledge of Indian art during her time working at Kapoor Galleries, specializing in ancient and classical art from India and the Himalayas. While working here, she also co-curated Poster House’s exhibition Air India’s Maharaja: Advertising Gone Rogue. Since her time at Kapoor, Carly has ventured into contemporary art registration and is currently working as Inventory Manager at Marlborough Gallery New York.

This exhibition was made possible through a generous gift from Gail Anderson.

Selected Images

A lithographic poster with a yellow and blue background of a couple walking stealthily toward us.
Raaj the Showman, 2009
Ramachandraiah & Raju
A lithographic poster of a man in yellow sunglasses looking tough against a yellow and blue checked background.
Abhay, 2009
Ramachandraiah & Raju
A lithographic poster of a topless man embracing a woman in traditional Indian dress from behind.
Love Story, 2009
Ramachandraiah & Raju
A lithographic poster of two men dancing enthusiastically against a bright rainbow background.
Guru is My Man, 2009
Ramachandraiah & Raju