THE BRITISH CEMETERY IN SURAT

In 2017, I visited The British, Dutch and Armenian cemeteries known as 'Alampanah' and 'Gulam Falia'. The colonials impress the natives by constructing enormous ornamental mausoleums instead of tombstones, around 300 to 400 approximately at the respective cemeteries. The earliest grave is dated circa 1649. Each grave is followed by a discussion of the cemetery's origins, the chronology of the tombs and the identity and status of the dead. Both (British),(Dutch and Armenian) cemeteries are located within a short distance near Katargam Gate, Katargam, Surat, Gujarat, India.
These graves are beautifully carved in English, Dutch, and Armenian languages using Latin and Armenian scripts. The calligraphy and typography communicate immensely about the monumental inscriptions that lookalike manuscript using Rustic capitals, Uncials, Half-uncials, Chancery hand, Bastarda and Cursive Italian styles, and ornamental patterns of flower and animals; motifs of angles and demon. They are maintained under the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). Despite this, most of these monuments are showing signs of severe deteriora­tion; fallen into decay, their marble slabs have been crumbled, and many have been removed and stolen. Appreciating the historical value of the carvings, I decided to take action to conserve them before the city loses its historical memorials, e.g. by maintaining the physical stones and document the inscriptions, catalogue their text/location, etc. Preserving all of them is a time-consuming process. Firstly, I will be cleaning the slab carefully with water, then rubbing or estampaging on a piece of paper. The estampage paper will be then preserved and scanned in the form of a document or photograph to build digitalised archived for a broader audience to use the archive online and increase the collection's utility. I will also be creating a library of inscribing letterforms as typefaces or font families. This research was also interviewed by a local channel in Surat, which helped to get awareness and insight into the city community. 

THE SWANKY THEATRES OF BANGALORE

It all began with a thought of 'What is next? And which part of Bangalore do I want to explore?. During one of the Sign walks, while we were exploring a variety of single-screen theatres, one of the participants (Abhay) mentioned, 'What if we do a Theatre walk'?. The idea was as pleasing as it sounded. And I instantly said Yes, Let's do it. This piece is about my experience on the streets of Bangalore while traversing, gaping and discussing the Typography, Lettering and Signages on the busy streets that never forget to amaze me, whether, on the fast-moving trucks/roadside stencils/street vendors cabins: letters are everywhere. They become alive with the ambience. 

The single-screen theatres I will express are from pre- to post-independence, admittedly distinct in variations from Art Deco to Modernism. The theatres are like art pieces from the exterior and the interior. They spoke about the exciting transitional period in Bangalore. Today they operate all the Regional (Tollywood{Telegu}, Mollywood{Malayalam}, Kollywood{Tamil}) and Bollywood movies. Despite this enthusiasm, single-screen theatres in Bangalore are dying an inconspicuous death. The changing urban landscapes and mushrooming of the multiplexes are eating into the investments of single-screen theatre owners, causing several of them to shut down. Otherwise, these theatres still leave a remarkable representation of the city. The walk started early, around 8 in the morning. The single-screen walk covered the five theatres: Poornima, Sharada, Prasanna, Veeresh, and Sampige. They are near the stretch of the KR market and Magadi road, respectively; Sampige is near Mantri mall. We began with Poornima Theatre (1973–79?) then Sharada (1946), Prasanna (1979), Veeresh (1973) and Sampige (1976). All the theatres hold a colonial look with fancy grills windows; Art Deco structures; Sheesham wooden interior; a large window mirror facade on the front; and a strange mix of modernist nostalgia - the idea that form should follow function. It appeared an ordinary building instead, with a big surprise from the inside. with a POP ornate decorative ceiling in the main hall and inside the screen area wall, grand staircases, marble floors, and fabricated letters at the rear building with Neon Lights. The razzle-dazzle of an Egyptian attracted due to its personality and loudness, which caught the attachment of a beholder. A resemblance of an era in a typical theatre setup would be like, 'An Exaggerated hierarchy of hand-painted letters at the ticket window and information display charts'. The rugged and jiggered poster displaying movie timings - as bold as the giant cutouts of movie stars, decorated theatres entrances with flowers and letters weaved on a carpet, to the 'luxury' of balconies –single screens continue to feed the furore of the fans almost like Alice in wonderland. 

Typography in Single Screens: There is much hand-lettered information everywhere in the theatre with torn down edges of the characters on the glass window, seats, non-smoking signs, toilets signs, and canteen area. It was almost going back in time and experiencing the non-luxurious notion of cinema. As for the typography, which is in two languages (Kannada and English), it is as vivid as the unconventional brush strokes with bright colours, making it more distinctive and quirky. The point of sale focus on theatre signage is more acoustic and elaborative. The layout and text that has to be noticed most have more personalities in the letterforms than the rest of the information, as one can see in the images of ticket booths and information charts. It confirms that the quality of these letterforms depends upon the experience of the Sign Painter  without formal training, they would be considered a lettering artist. The concept of drafting and composition starts with measuring the space, and the primary goal is to divide the space. Then comes the selection of style, followed by the colour scheme. The handling of the brush and the flexibility sometimes express the form of the letterform. The style variations like Italic, Block, Roman (as a preferred term for Sans by the Sign Painters) become trendy and hip due to the various brush sizes and influence of western letters. The different shades and shadows make them beautiful individual letterforms, despite the poorly spaced and awkward arrangement. To give an example, the image of the Display board represents the theatre name on the top and show timings on the third line. The different styles of lettering indicate morning and afternoon with round hand - italic with an uneven relief shadow, and for the evening and late-night shows in bold roman calligraphic style stroke. The razzle-dazzle of the hand-painted numbers were all in Egyptian style due to its personality and loudness, which caught the attachment of a non-native speaker. 

The large hand-painted cutouts of the actors at the entrance of the movie theatre indicate stardom and popularity. The cinema in the southern part of India is like a festival that comes every month. The high enlargement of the stars are grand and are worship like Gods with flower garlands. The entrance gate design is made of colourful thread (insert image), which gives information about the movie. The letterforms vary from each other in scale and proportion. There is no specific rule followed during the making of it, yet it is still legible and readable. The board is mainly designed in Kannada script due to the high local ratio. On the other hand, some posters that caught the viewer's attention are hand-printed and digital ones. The typography and graphic design are almost like David Carson's designs, very speculative. The most popular fluorescent lithography posters stand out due to the hand-made typography and movie titles. They are very distinct in composition and are printed only in Black. Due to the base lettering skills, the duplication of the movie title from the digital proof is very tacky and gaudy, still legible and readable thou. The hand-letterers create such posters with no prior qualification, but they mimic the styles as a helper. It leads into the dynamics of typography places and designed as it forms. The concept of grid and composition is a choice made by a layman whose mojo is to sell the film rather than defining such posters' design terms. The lithography posters are designed on the spot on the stone with dedicated spaces to particular objects which need to be highlighted and give straight/direct information. 

During the sign walk, other theatres we explored were Bhoomika, Abhinaya, Narthaki, Santosh, Sapna, Triveni, and Anupama. So tip-off, they share the same story of fame, and quite surprising, some of the theatres were playing soft porn movies in the '70s.