Posters -- once an aid, now a curse for Madurai
The poster culture in Madurai that started during MGR & Sivaji’s era as a mode of communication has become a nagging issue now
MADURAI: World renowned Meenakshi Amman temple, historical Thirumalai Nayak Mahal, Gandhi Museum, Samanar hills, street food and festivities; Madurai is replete with colours. However, anyone taking a walk through the city streets would never fail to notice the posters of varied colours and sizes cluttering almost all the vacant spaces.
Tracing the evolution of the popular poster culture in Madurai that stands out from rest of the districts across the State, one could see what began as a mode of communication, a street media, has now ended up as a public nuisance, crying for immediate intervention.
Following the recent poster-free city drive launched by the Chennai Corporation, Madurai residents have also sought for a similar initiative in the city. Back in 2009, the Madurai Corporation enforced a ban on pasting posters on main roads and also imposed hefty fine to the tune of Rs 5,000 on political parties and private organisations that deface the walls and other structures in the city.
Even after 12 years, the posters drip the eulogy all over Madurai. Despite many attempts by the local body authorities to ban the posters defacing the public space as part of the beautification works, the initiatives had failed utterly as the government lacked to understand the socio-cultural and political significance intertwined with it, particularly in Madurai, said residents.
Be it the election results or the release of a new movie, Madurai has always inherited the deciding authority to declare success. Initially, there were exclusive wall artists, then came the handwritten posters and banners. The popular poster culture began as early as the Sivaji-MGR era. A member of a fan club, one B Manikandan, said, “Posters are our way of celebration and mode of communication to let our favourite actors know what we expect of them. It also showcases an individual member’s power in the district among other members of the club and aids us prove our power over the rival fan clubs.”
The fan clubs of movie stars used the posters as a medium to launch a tug-of-war between their rival clubs. “In fact, the attributes like nadigar thilagam, makkal thilagam, ulaga nayagan, super star, thala and thalapathy emerged from such posters. Unlike now, there was not much traffic. Many used cycles or went by foot to nearby places. We used to wait for the new posters. Standing by the posters to read them and to simply see it getting pasted on the walls was a sort of entertainment back then,” recalled writer A Muthukrishnan.
Meanwhile, posters have always been an inseparable tool in politics. Notably, even in a recent incident before the Assembly polls, it was the posters, which were donned across the Theni streets calling the Coordinator of AIADMK, O Panneerselvam, as the Chief Ministerial candidate, and it sparked a controversy in TN politics. Functionaries of AIADMK were also expelled for pasting posters in support of VK Sasikala, the close aide of former CM J Jayalalithaa. With the emergence of digital banners in the late 2000, the charm of posters was lost.
“Until 2000, the banners were commissioned only by the film producers, film distributors, theatre owners and politicians. When the digital banners came into public use, it became a tool of a few dominant communities to exhibit the birth and death anniversaries of their caste leaders. The posters later evolved as a medium to publicise family functions, birthdays, weddings, ear-piercing ceremony, house-warming ceremony, puberty functions, obituary, temple festivals and the like,” said K Raja, a flex printer.
“The posters pasted these days are narcissistic in nature. They not only deface the public space but also lead to environmental issues. Over a period of time, it gets clogged into drainage or storm water drains. The stray cattle feed on posters. Public and private walls, trees, lamp posts, pillars of the bridges, flyovers, name boards of the streets, and even the junction boxes of Tangedco are not spared.
At times of the birthdays of actors, movie releases and during elections, it goes beyond control,” said a resident Madhan. As banning the posters completely could only backfire given the cultural context here, Muthukrishnan suggested that the civic body could rather earmark a particular space for pasting posters. “Walls covered with graffiti are a common sight in foreign nations. The poster culture here has reformed into a meme culture in digital space now.
However, providing a physical space is important, as the posters play a vital role in designing the visual culture of public spheres,” he suggested. Corporation Commissioner KP Karthikeyan said that the civic body has now undertaken a mass cleaning drive across the city and is concentrating on maintaining cleanliness. “Banners and hoardings have come down significantly in Madurai now. If not immediately, over a period of time, we would regulate the posters,” he assured.