In the late ’90s, when India was on the threshold of an internet explosion, a young Fayyaz Badruddin would spend hours in a cyber cafe on Mohammad Ali Road, Mumbai, dreaming up a job he would eventually pursue.
At a time when most production houses were yet to wake up to the world wide web, Yash Raj Films (YRF), on its newly launched website announced their magnum opus, that marked the coming together of Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.
The film was Mohabbatein, and the year, 1999, when Badruddin, after devouring the site's content with wide eyed wonder, promptly wrote to the mail id given on the site.
He introduced himself as a graphic designer, enquiring if there was a vacancy in any capacity. It was the first step in a long-standing relationship that he was about to forge with the premiere movie moguls of Bollywood, being their first and only in-house graphic designer.
“My mom always said that if I had Rs 1 in my pocket, I would rather watch a film than eat. These two things — Photoshop and movies — connected me to posters,” says Badruddin, sitting inside the corporate office of Yash Raj Studios in Andheri, Mumbai.
It seems he was always destined to work at Yash Raj Films because of the similarity of his favourite red-and-white pullover to the company’s logo — the iconic symbol of Bollywood’s dream merchants of chiffon, champagne and Switzerland.
“They keep teasing me in office about this,” says Badruddin, who had designed clothes when he was helping with his father’s business in Dubai.
Badruddin often made dummy posters from stock images of film stars on his brother’s computer.
It is when few of his brother’s friends mistook them for real posters that he realised the true potential of his designing abilities.
“I used to be wary because I did not have a degree in design and always feared I’ll be looked down upon in the field,” he says.
But with an inquisitive mind and a pro-active approach, Baddrudin self-taught his way into technical finesse. At Yash Raj Films, he conceives all the visual material required for the publicity material of the film from the concept and the logo to the colour palette.
"Posters make me feel closer to the movie. One image can intrigue you so much," says the 40-year-old. His uncanny spontaneity to identify such images gave way to the teaser of Mohabbatein, where he went against Aditya Chopra’s brief.
“They wanted a youthful, contemporary look, but I went the classic love story way. From the images of the film given to me, the one with SRK on a chair playing the violin struck me. I also found a floppy full of stock images of leaves,” he recalls.
The intrigue is visible in the teaser poster of Dhoom 3. With his well-sculpted back towards us, a bare-bodied Aamir Khan looking at an apocalyptic cityscape makes for a hoot of a teaser.
"It's a classic example of mystery, with the backs turned towards the wall, which you can see in Ek Tha Tiger and Gunday too. We wanted to keep it cool, classic and minimal,” says Badruddin.
About comparisons with The Dark Knight in look and tone, he says, "It merely captures what is there in the film. And why would Yash Raj need to rip off from The Dark Knight." Badruddin on an average takes two months to work on a film.
The flavourful kitsch of Shuddh Desi Romance has been quite a splash too.
According to Badruddin, it required special efforts by the team — along with director Maneesh Sharma and writer Jaideep Sahni — to undo the desi-cool template the makers had earlier created with a string of earthy rom-coms such as Bunty aur Babli and Band Baaja Baarat. With the digital medium constantly pushing the envelope of designing, Badruddin is constantly experimenting.
He was the first in Bollywood to introduce motion posters with Ek Tha Tiger — of a keffiyeh-sporting Salman Khan striking a pose against the backdrop of Turkey. But none of it is gimmicky.