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Rekha (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Tina Munim (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Dimple Kapadia and Amitabh Bachchan (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Anil Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Aamir Khan (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Dimple Kapadia (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Hema Malini (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Kimi Katkar (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Jackie Shroff (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Sunny Deol (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Deepti Naval (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Madhuri Dixit (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Madhuri Dixit (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Kimi Katkar (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Mithun Chakraborty (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Meenakshi Sheshadri (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Moon Moon Sen (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Anita Raj (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Mandakini (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Shakti Kapoor (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Sanjay Dutt (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Meenakshi Sheshadri, Padmini Kolhapure and Poonam Dhillon(Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

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Rajnikanth (Photo: Hutton Archives/Getty Images)

BOLLYWOOD KITSCH

It's good because it's awful: portrait photography in '80s Bollywood

Kaushik Ramaswamy @kaushikramaswa1

"One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art." - Oscar Wilde

The words 'Glamour Glow' and 'Star' may mean nothing to you but if you've seen any of these Bollywood portraits from the '80s and early '90s, you're actually familiar with them.

A mini-revolution in the world of photography, particularly studio photography, these two filters - first developed in North America and Western Europe - spread like wildfire the world over.

Bollywood portrait photographers picked it up in the early '80s and went on to create some of the iconic images of the next two decades, primarily for magazine covers and promotional material.

Garish, outlandish clothing, backlighting, bizarre accessories and extra-terrestrial facial expressions combined to create a sensibility of deliberate and self-acknowledged theatricality, which became the signature of celebrity portrait photography during this time.

A specific cultural aesthetic emerged - at first kitsch, then going on to becoming camp. It took itself seriously, but could not be taken altogether seriously because it was 'too much'.

In the '90s, this 'too much' evolved into a more sophisticated and polished version of itself. The images made during the '80s and '90s marked the end of the age of film. With the appearance of digital photography, the art form became democratic and desensitised. The high camp was lost and aesthetic sensibilities in studio photography shifted towards 'the real'.

Techniques and tools took a quantum jump to cater to speed and variation. Art directors and their choices shifted, becoming more muted and 'realistic'.

Now, in 2015, we have pre-set filters in our cameras and post-production software that can create that old '80s effect at the touch of a button. The photographic sensibility that took Bollywood on a wondrous ride now exists as a mere plugin.

Text and Image edits by Kaushik Ramaswamy

Kaushik Ramaswamy

Kaushik Ramaswamy @kaushikramaswa1