The First

The First



Baburao Painter’s studio in Kolhapur still stands, – a sign points to the three-story structure hemmed by a tree, urging people in Marathi: Keep It Clean. In the 1920s, the man had no precedent for what he did – creating the first program booklets to be handed out at Indian films, painting by hand posters for his films. For the next fifty years, film posters in India were painted this way.
Other poster artists climbed ladders, walked on scaffolding to paint the large screens meant to loudly entice people to the story. But Baburao engineered a pulley that would hold the canvas between two floors of his house, the canvas wheeled up as the man painted down. I would ask him, if I could, where does the first of a kind come from?
Inside his studio, sixty-five years after his death, his family still sweeps the floors clean. The posters he painted, the ones that survived, stay in museums and art houses away from his easels and his paints.

Note: Baburao Painter was a maverick film director, screenwriter and poster artist who made films from the 1920s to the 1950s. This poem wouldn’t be possible without the reporting of Shriram Khadilkar.


Illustration by Fabian Gonsalves. You can follow his work on

Read more from The Peacock: Issue 3 (2019) here