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Partners in Progress : Ek Kadam Bharat ki Aur

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“In the cities in which we live, all of us see hundreds of publicity images every day of our
lives. No other kind of image confronts us so frequently… In no other form of society in
history has there been such a concentration of images, such a density of visual messages…
One may remember or forget these messages but briefly one takes them in, and for a
moment they stimulate the imagination by way of either memory or expectation…

john berger, 1972

In the book, “Ways of Seeing”, John Berger opened the discussion on the visual in diverse forms and modes of dissemination, including the field of publicity. Publicity as a form of visual culture played an important role in the shaping of nationalist modernity at the dawn of independence in India. This visual archive relates to an evolving commodity culture in a distinctive way. It constantly borrowed from cultural imagery of older lineage, while shaping and refabricating it. Media technologies of print and cinema were critical to the building of a local idiom of popular visual culture.

Drawing on visual archives of Indian advertisements, the exhibition explores the conversations around publicity in India in the 1950s and 1960s. These marketing campaigns spoke of an agenda to build a self-reliant, safe and strong India. An average Indian citizen was addressed as an active consumer of new forms that would lift India out of the threat of poverty and disease. In their cultivation of local consumers, brands like Tata, Godrej, Burmah Shell, Dunlop, Usha, Philips, Hindustan Lever, Voltas, ACC and Dalda would often position their brands in the visual imagery of the traditions and heritage of India, architectural ruins, classical dance traditions, mythology, folk tales and legends, even diverse lineages of state craft and military history. They would also seek to tantalize the consumer with the promise not only of growth, of quality and convenience, but also of glamor and luxury. These layered forms of cultural fabrication and address in the publicity material arguably had a significant presence in shaping the national aesthetic. On display would be a unique archive of advertisements that brings forth the cultural imagination of that era. We start on the day of India’s Independence from a long British Raj, that moment
of arrival where India is gearing up to build a strong nation.

Contributing Archives

CSDS Sarai Archives
Godrej Archives
Film Division Archives

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