Dave and Jenny, Bollywood style

If you heard about this on NPR’s Studio 360, you’d like our book! “Delirious Delhi” is a humorous travel memoir of expat life in New Delhi. Learn much more.

There was once a time in Delhi when shining malls and Café Coffee Days didn’t exist as refuges from heat and stench. In this land before liberalization, sanctuary could be found in the local cinema halls that apparently dotted the Indian urban landscape. But multiplexes are driving them out of business — and, as collateral damage, taking with them the Bollywood poster painters who relied on their business.

Every year, Jenny and I send out a photoshopped holiday card to our friends and family. When we found out that some Bollywood poster painters are still eking out a living near Old Delhi, we knew that this year’s card would be hand-made. We dissected a bunch of old Bollywood posters for composition and style, took pictures of our faces in our desired poses, and set out a neighborhood near the Red Fort armed with vague contact instructions: “Find the Darya Ganj fire station. Make a right. Walk a hundred yards and ask the paan wallah for Vijay.”

The paan wallah sent us to a bicycle rickshaw stand, where sleeping rickshaw pullers competed for space with the myriad rickshaw parts strewn about. We sat at the stand and chatted with Manesh, who seemed to manage the rickshaw syndicate, until Vijay Singh pulled up on a rickshaw of his own. Vijay and Manesh then took us up the dirt road across the street to Vijay’s open-air studio. Fading starlets gave us sultry glances from dusty wooden walls as we sat on a wooden charpoy to talk.

With Manesh translating, we told Vijay exactly what we wanted — the composition, the elements, the style, the poses, the title, the tagline. Happy for the business, Vijay was nonetheless confused about how we’d found him. Not sure how to explain that our relationship with the woman on the expat listserv who recommended him, we just told him that he was “very famous.” His smile told us that that was what he was hoping to hear.

I returned the next weekend with my father and money for the deposit. Manesh wasn’t there; this time, we sat at the rickshaw stand with a drunk mechanic who kept telling us “I speak English tutti-frutti” and “Vijay is my brother” and “You want some whiskey?” Finally Vijay and Ranjeet, his English-speaking partner, pulled up in a rickshaw. We discussed again the composition and the poses while the drunken mechanic danced around, sent a peon for soda, and interrupted us with “Vijay famous artist!” and “My cousin-brother!” and “You want whiskey?”

Jenny and I had anticipated a small poster, perhaps two feet in length — after all, our main goal was to reprint it on a postcard. Vijay, however, insisted that his work could be no less than five feet tall. We agreed, the peon returned, and we celebrated our agreement with Pepsi and whiskey. As we were walking out, the mechanic turned to me to whisper conspiratorially, “I speak English tutti-frutti.”

A week later, we returned to examine the work in progress. Five feet had become six.

And then, two weeks after we had commissioned it, Jenny and I came to Darya Ganj to behold our first starring role, captured in perfect 1970s Bollywood style. This poster accurately recreated the most exciting experiences we’ve had in Delhi so far: our spontaneous dances in various grand ballrooms, the time we fought criminals as special investigators in the Delhi police force, and that awful incident when our love of diamonds and danger forced us to turn our commandeered autorickshaws against each other.

And you thought we were working office jobs!

As Vijay and his team presented their work with pride, Ranjeet reminded us that poster painting is a dying art, and that we should tell our friends. So it’s with no hesitation that we recommend Vijay to capture your likeness in archaic Bollywood style. You can find him near the paan wallah, across from the rickshaw stand, down from the fire station; or you can just contact Ranjeet at 99996 29382 or ranjeet_2870@rediffmail.com.

P.S. Guess which one is the drunken mechanic?

If you heard about this on NPR’s Studio 360, you’d like our book! “Delirious Delhi” is a humorous travel memoir of expat life in New Delhi. Learn much more.

115 responses to “Dave and Jenny, Bollywood style

  1. Awesome stuff ! Btw I think its tutti futti/fhutti English which means broken English

    Happy new Yr, u guys.

  2. You guys are awesome! Putting that one on the bucket list. Maybe they could stay in business doing custom art for those of us who always wanted to chase the goondas in a hot rod autorickshaw race.

  3. Awesome! Although you’re really digging yourselves into a hole now. If you keep topping the previous year, WHAT NEXT?!?

  4. As I read this blog I am sitting holding a copy of your card. It looks magnificent. Good show!

    Oh, and I can help you fill in the _____ : “Sarah”.

  5. This made my day. Fan-freaking-tastic.

  6. Awesome stuff. You guys rock!

  7. This is fantastic, guys! I have been living in Delhi for so many years, and I didn’t think of it! I will soon get one poster done for myself. 🙂

    I will write about this in my blog too. 🙂

  8. Hilarious!

    It’s too bad it’s a dying art form because the painting is actually very good.

  9. This is really amazing. Only in India! I’m glad that you could give Vijay some business while creating a great holiday card. I have to say that I really miss these old hand-drawn posters on billboards. Maybe you’ll bring them back in fashion!

  10. that is the coolest thing ever.

  11. Is the drunken mechanic the one waving?

  12. the drunken mechanic .. I think I found him !

  13. Wow! That is cool!!! Perfect post to start the day with. Happy New Year Dave and Jenny!

  14. This is mind blowing shit. Wow, if this guy could market himself, everybody would get one made. What a great idea! very very hilarious!!!!

  15. Amazing!!! god you guys are more indians than any of us…….

    The guy in blue??

  16. Superb. I am spreading the word!
    And the drunk mechanic is definitely the guy on the extreme right 🙂

  17. Hey, this was brilliant. And the poster looks great. Both of you would have made good Delhi Police investigators. And the expressions on the “Dave and Jenny Dancing Pose” are priceless.

    You have outdone yourself. Which ain’t easy!


    Quirky Indian

  18. Loved it … What a cool idea !
    Drunken man on xtreme right

  19. Hi, my first visit to your blog! What a wonderful idea!
    The drunk guy was saying that he speaks English tooti-phooti, meaning broken English.

  20. I have seen this poster at Jenny & Dean`s Home and it looked simply amazing and I could not stop myself admiring it for quite some time before somebody pushed as I was blocking his vision !!!

    I still remember my childhood days when I sued to spend countless hours sitting at a Bollywood Poster Painter’s shop near my home and having a ball…

    thanks guys for making me nostalgic again….

    and wishing you all a gr8 2009….

    Cheers to Life…

  21. Nishant… “Dean”?

  22. My Bad….I sincerely apologize…party at any one of our EOiD Joints to you & Jenny for this blunder of mine !!!

  23. Oh my. I am speechless with envy, and also with laughter at your very witty post 🙂 “Guess which one is the drunken mechanic?”

    *falls off chair laughing*

  24. So I’d like to know: when does the Dave and Jenny movie come out? 😉 Great story done justice by great storytelling!

  25. Found this via Memsaab’s blog – this is the COOLEST THING EVER. I am dying of envy.

  26. Oh my God! What a show stealer!
    I am sppressing giggles (sitting in office) seeing that ballroom pose.
    I hereby award you as the “Indian couple of the year”

  27. Pingback: Personal Bollywood Movie Poster « Posterwire.com » the movie poster weblog

  28. Pingback: Photoshop kills the posters stars « My India Experience

  29. hey guys can u pls get in touch with me on my mail id. i am a journalist and would love to publish ur postcards in my paper…hope u wont mind sharing.. pls dont!

  30. Pingback: Dave and Jenny, Bollywood style | DesiPundit

  31. Hi there! I’m a native New Yorker myself and am doing my second year in India. I just posted my blogs up on expat-blogs.com and found you there. From reading some of your posts, I realize that you are also a member of Yuni-net, which I find extremely useful, too.

    I have a post from December that lists another American blogger and four groups I’ve joined since coming here that you find helpful.


    I will subscribe to your blog and link back to it as well. I couldn’t tell how long you’ve been here, but welcome! 🙂

  32. This is such a great poster, it even has the absurd tagline like a real one would- “Love is more powerful than danger” .
    The story is obvious from the poster. Honest , hardworking police officer Dave moves to Delhi and rents a room with Mrs D’sa. He is searching for his lost parents and his only clue is a gold waistband(see poster). He teams with officer Jenny, who secretly loves Dave, to solve the mystery of a gang of jewel smugglers. A drunken mechanic leads them to a group of autorickshaw drivers owned by Durjan Singh and Balwant Rai. Dave and Jenny struggle with traffic and pollution as undercover auto drivers to infiltrate the gang(see poster). They perform a item number (see poster) at Durjan’s mansion and find a locked room with a madwoman Durga devi, she has a piece of Dave’s waistband too. Turns out Durjan and Durga are Dave’s parents, she went mad when the kid was lost in the Kumbh mela. Dave frees his mom and arrests the smugglers in a final showdown in the gold mines. The end

  33. Hey Thats awesomeeeeeeee….and its suits u people as well….and ya thats bollywood in 80s what abt current trends? do u watch bollywood movies?
    came here thru google recommendations….would like 2 read ur experiences!

  34. oh, brilliant! what a fantastic idea, why have I never thought of this? Good stuff!

  35. Brilliant stuff! Loved the tagline on the poster.

    Now do we get to see a 70s style potboiler sometime soon?

  36. This is goooood! Can you tell how much that cost?

  37. This is so lovely – it’s so funny, and moving to me, too, this intersection of lives — also satisfactorily filmi.

    Eternal love and kisses to Ms for her narration of the plot.

    And though this is Delhi, it makes me think of the opening moments of Bombay Talkie, in which poster-wallahs carry new painted film posters, ready to be put up, through the streets of early-morning Bombay. (It’s a Merchant-Ivory movie in English about Bollywood in the late 60s, when it was made.)

  38. Pingback: Get Your Own Poster The Bollywood Ishtyle! | Trends Updates

  39. While walking along Darya Ganj a few weeks ago I met a drunk guy insisting to me that he spoke Tutti Frutti english also.

  40. Absolutely amazing!
    I hope the artist gets as much work as humanly possible with the exposure your blog post has given. Just awesome.

  41. Pingback: Links for 2009-1-20 « Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog

  42. wow!!! what a fantastic idea!! ! I’m lovin’ it!

  43. hi dave & jenny,
    great idea and love the result. i wrote about a book and exhibition of hoarding boards last year that made its way through Chennai here : http://theperpetualbloom.wordpress.com/2007/12/10/toilets-and-hoarding-boards/

    i’m returning to india for another year this february–this time in Rajasthan–but i am always passing through Delhi and enjoy your blog and adventures.

  44. Very Funny. You know Bollywood hired tourists as extras. Show up prepared at one of these Bollywood Studios prepared.

  45. You guys are cool! And I don’t say this about a lot of people!

  46. This is Hillllaaa rious!!!! A friend fwded this to me.

    btw, also saw your other post about books. We run a library in Delhi that delivers books to people’s homes (kinda like netflix , but for books). Chk it out if you are into books-
    Keep up the fun!

  47. nice .really awesome.Keep writing 🙂

  48. Great stuff guys, absolutely the coolest thing i have ever seen..Made my day. keep up blogging!

  49. Pingback: Bollywood portrait as holiday card - Crapazon

  50. There’s plenty of non-multiplexes everywhere. Buy an Enfield and visit the country! I saw movies all the time when I was in India. I was in a movie, so do that too! They look for foreigners. Dang, now I’ll have to go back to Delhi so I can get a poster myself.

  51. love the poster, although I found it a little joyful as movie poster.

  52. That is just beautiful, what a great concept.

  53. who’s who in the photos?

  54. Pingback: My Media Mirror » Blog Archive » Bollywood portrait as holiday card

  55. Pingback: links for 2009-02-18 | Nerdcore

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  57. Pingback: Dave and Jenny’s Delhi Struggle

  58. Pingback: Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Feb. 26, 2009: Rivalries and relationships

  59. Speaking for starving artists everywhere, I am pleased as punch that you have given this hard-working artist some work & also some well-deserved publicity. Great idea, your karma just got some bonus points!

    And did anyone notice that this self-taught poster wallah actually bothers to capture a likeness … a habit which many (far better paid) illustrators & artists seem to neglect these days

  60. Pingback: Taco Bell: Coming soon at Asian Window

  61. Ah! i some how misplaces that Minature poster (Postacard) … it’s great to have you here in india, you brought lots of FUN Back. Catch you on saturday… cheers

  62. Pingback: Bli bollywoodstjärna

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  64. hi,iam deepak daniel i saw your website,realy fantastic.just small qustion,you both visit
    to delhi for bollywood poster there they make.i open a indian restaurent in belgium and concpet is bollywood,i love this poster ,i just want your help if possibel to have adderes from the peopel they make poster in delhi,iam so glad if you give me adderes.thans here you .deepak daniel

  65. Hi, I have recently decided to visit India and wouldnt want to come back without one of these fab posters. Could you please give me an indication of how much these would cost and whether it’s still possible to get one done.

    Many thanks

  66. Hi guys, great and hilarious post, i just featured an image from here on my post on bollywood posters, i hope thats all right with you guys. I gave full reference to you and i made sure i highlighted your blog as the source


  67. Vijay is my uncle and I know all of them since I born they are awsome artist, currently I am in Canada migrated 3 yrs ago before Vijay (my uncle) and I did alot business with French people making paintings and poster for them. Remember it takes days in finishing and working on Canvas with oil paint, required too much experience and creativity. Vijay is a awsome artist I have some collections of Vijay’s art, if anyone want to know more about this art through collections contact me on my email.

  68. awesome .. 🙂

  69. Sir& Madam,

    Our organization YFF has undertaken a project: Pushpanjali Prawaha ‘The flow of devotional flowers’ the new method for disposal of flowers and other puja waste in the year 2009 in Delhi . We have devised a special NIRMALYA “KALASH” which will be placed in public places for the immediate disposal of these flowers. These will subsequently be disposed by our volunteers at an appropriate place. This will help tremendously in the reduction of pollution in The Yamuna river.
    Since Delhi is preparing for 2010 Commonwealth Games, we also want to achieve the aforesaid goal in a very short time i.e in Seven months. If help to make Yamuna river pollution free of flowers and poly bags is granted, we shall leave no stone unturned to complete the work within the stipulated time to the satisfaction of all concerned. We hope that you will make your contribution for this noble cause.

    Awaiting a positive response at your earliest convenience.

    With kind regards,

    A humble citizen
    Email: pushpanjaliprawaha@gmail.com

    kindly find attached a copy of poster pushpanjali prawaha.

  70. This SO amazing. ROTF. Great you guys are soaking up the real India.

    Just out of curiosity… how much would s’th like this cost?

    Cheers and keep it light.

  71. wonderful blog! i am looking for similar posters for my brooklyn,ny apt. could you email me and let me know how to get to Vijay or any of the other artists who do this type of work?

    thanks in advance, Tanya

  72. Pingback: surprise: it’s us! « Our Delhi Struggle

  73. hi everyone,
    i & mr. vijay, the poster artist, live in new delhi. i do lettering work on posters and vijay do the painting with great skills. i would like to thank dave & jenny for their support to us. anybody interested bollywood type painting can contact me on my email: ranjeet_2870@rediffmail.com

  74. Pingback: dave and jenny in Gulf Life magazine « Our Delhi Struggle

  75. Pingback: Pimp my cow in Karol Bagh! « Same Same (but different)

  76. gr8 stuff… 🙂

  77. How fun is THIS! Ed (hubby) and I spent the morning with Carol and Jim enjoying political discussion. As Carol and Jim entered, we heard they’d been listening to you on NPR. Now, here you are in front of our very eyes!
    Stay well; be safe; have great times. We hope to meet you one day.
    Virginia and Ed Fultz–aka-friends of Carol and Jim

  78. I heard this prog ( Bollywood Painters ) on NPR, downloaded it and Emailed to many of my friends .It is a heart warming experience . I webstream an indian station program , I am streming this program to some of my listeners in UK, India, canada etc. Thank you guys for a nice program.

  79. Just discovered your blog. I can hear the “dishum dishum” from the guns. By the way it is cold and colorless in Washington DC. Enjoy the sunshine out there!

  80. My wife and I now have our own original (and gigantic) Bollywood poster thanks to this blog! After seeing this, we contacted Ranjeet via e-mail and went through the process ourselves. Ranjeet and Vijay made the whole thing easy and fun. I think the hardest part was deciding what we wanted (although Ranjeet did offer to help with that too).

    The advice I’ve given to everyone else interested is to ask Ranjeet about more protection for the poster during shipping. When we received ours, it was rolled up, but not in a tube. It was in good condition, but had clearly been flattened a bit at some point during the shipping process. An ideal situation would be to wrap the canvas around a stiff tube, and then put that into another tube. Personally, I think that would be worth paying a little extra for.

    I would also suggest asking for a “safe zone” of about 2.5 to 3 inches on each side. When we took our canvas to the framer’s to get stretched, he told us we would lose about 2 inches on each side. He wasn’t kidding. Luckily, (mostly) everything fits into the frame, and nothing important got cut off.

    For those of you concerned about price, trust me when I say that you’re going to get an amazing deal. We’re talking about a 5’x3′ or 6’x4′ custom painting here. No matter how much it costs, you’re walking away a winner (and, in my opinion, so are Vijay and Ranjeet). I don’t feel like I should name the price I actually paid, but I will say that the stretching and framing cost more than the painting itself.

    You can see our poster here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mwproductions/4475678908/

    The faces are what really sell it. That’s what we actually look like! Everyone comments on how amazing the faces are, and it’s true. Vijay is an amazing artist!

  81. squarecutatul

    What a great idea ! And the poster is lovely, including the delightfully inane tag line in Hindi.

    I hope the poster maker has got more business thanks to this post.

  82. This is great! I’ve been a Bollywood fan since the day I was born and I really want a big poster of my fiance and I, for our wedding this year. I wonder if this guy does our faces on any new Bollywood films??

  83. Still laughing!! drunken mechanic!! cant believe he’s actually waving!! 😀 I hadn’t even noticed him until you pointed it out..

    phew.. ow.. my jaw hurts now.

  84. Pingback: Pakistan’s film poster painters are suffering, too « Our Delhi Struggle

  85. Oh my gosh…this is so amazing….I would love to have that done too 🙂 At first I thought the both of you had really starred in a Hindi movie….i think thats a strong possibility one day 🙂

  86. Pingback: how to enjoy Delhi during the Commonwealth Games (despite what the media says) | Our Delhi Struggle

  87. What a great story! Any idea if Vijay is still around? I know it’s totally copying you guys, but I would love to have this kind of thing done!!! Was it extremely expensive?

  88. Pingback: A book. Not THE book, but A book… | Our Delhi Struggle

  89. Awesome stuff! I came across your site searching around for a bollywood poster painter. Any chance I can get Vijays contact info?

  90. Scanning through all the comments and I still find no answer about which one the drunken mechanic is, but maybe it’s best to live with that mystery! 🙂
    All the best!

  91. Hi Dave and Jenny ,

    I am a not-so-regular(coz lack of time) reader of your blog and I like it very much.
    I was seeing a regular travel program called ” It Happens Only in India” on Fox History India Channel by Malishka and there she took the viewers to Vijay , the painter and then they showed yours hand-made poster , which you have put here.

    I thought of telling you that.

  92. Re: shipping suggestions in a comment above – March 30 2010 by Thomas Brown – they sound good, what I think of is this, if you are travelling to India and have arranged to get a poster you might think of taking some shipping tubes with you. Unless you know where to buy them in Delhi. It might be easier to show up with them for the painters.

  93. thats gr8
    i am proud of my country INDIA
    we are chaging
    we are shining
    feel free to visit my site.
    thank you.

  94. Pingback: Book Review: Delirious Delhi « Visceral Observations

  95. Getting poster painted from Vijay!

  96. Just stumbled upon your article. This is an epic one.

    So, I ordered a second hand copy of the book from http://www.madbooks.com

    Hope to have fun reading this…

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