I was in chennai recently, and one of the things that strike you is the huge amount of hoardings everywhere you go. Every rooftop has a hoarding. The sides of every bridge have at least a dozen hoardings- hoardings of movie stars, and movies, saris and soaps, computers and mobile phones all cramming together, yelling at you for your attention. It's not just the number of them that hits you, but even the size of them. They're huge. Every single one of them is at least four times the size of the ones in Bangalore. Even today, if you go around in Bangalore, you'll find several empty ones that say "contact-########", meaning they're vacant and ready to be hired. I couldn't find a single empty one in Chennai.
An Ogden nash couplet comes to my mind.
I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall, I'll never see a tree at all.
I've always wondered though. When do they fix up the billboards. A long time ago, people would paint billboards. I remember those days. You could always find a man atop a wooden framework, skillfully painting a billboard with images that bore strong resemblances to real life people. I know today that it isn't at all easy to be able to draw anything that looks like a human being, let alone draw it well enough to be identifiable as a particular human being and not just any random one. Boost sells because Sachin, in particular Sachin, drinks Boost and not any cricketer in general. And billboards had paintings of someone who was without a doubt, Sachin. Yet, I am sure those billboard painters had no idea of how skillful they actually were. Most of them were just earning their bread and butter by doing acrobatics in mid-air and painting in mid-air without real safety precautions except a plastic helmet and faith in the power of life. I wonder if they had training programs and apprenticeships before being hoisted to such an honourable position (all sarcasm/respect intended).
And then suddenly, someone discovered a way to print large size hoardings and just pin them on to the framework of the hoarding. I don't know when that happened, but it did happen. All they need to do today is print out the water proof, weather resistant colossal advertisements and pin it up with a few nails. And I continue to wonder when they do it. Do they do it in the middle of the night when nobody can see ? Do they do it in bright daylight and we just happen to miss them all the time, or do so few of them get changed that at any given point, the probability of seeing a billboard being changed is very few ? I don't know. It doesn't matter.
But what of all those painters ? What happened to them ? Where do they paint now ? In national galleries and billion dollar exhibitions ? I don't think so. Where do they paint ? Or did companies that were hiring them decide to also give them a crash course on printing, so that now they print out the ads ? What of their kids ? The kids that were at least learning alongside their father, the art of painting Sachin Tendulkar. Did they not learn that then because their dad sent them to school by painting Tendulkar ? Or are they not going to school now because their dad doesn't have a job ? I actually have no clue. And at one point, the government of India was considering waiving the import tax on the ferrari gifted to Sachin Tendulkar. It's just very very strange how things work sometimes. Because Sachin was the last person who needed to keep the money. And the government, clearly, was the last organization that needed the money. But people who played a HUGE LIFE SIZE role in creating the idol that is Sachin, bloody well needed that money.
Ya Billboards. When do they change them these days ? And perhaps, more importantly, who does ?