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Firecracker Artwork, Zeenat Aman “atom bombs”

The Sixties belonged to Hindi film heroines, cover girls such as Mala Sinha and Meena Kumari, who smiled demurely from cracker boxes, the very image of the bharatiya nari. In the ’70s, they were replaced by Rekha, Mumtaz, Yogita Bali and popular south Indian actresses. The imagery too changed from the chubby-cheeked kids and goddesses of the ’50s and ’60s. Cracker labels now looked more like film posters. The quality was crude, mostly hand-drawn and the packaging was poor in quality. The ’80s and ’90s brought bikini-clad Westernised heroines to Hindi cinema. Thus, we see Zeenat Aman and Mandakini on cracker boxes of “atom bombs”, pun entirely intended. The “bomb” had clear sexual overtones. One marked distinction remained. The phooljhari packet labels which are mostly used by younger kids still carry images of the mother and child or an angelic girl. Other crackers like rockets and bullet-bombs, which are of fairly high intensity have “sex bomb” images of these popular heroines draped in diaphanous drapery, keeping in mind the youth and its fascination towards sex and violence. In the ’80s, George Lucas’s Star Wars embraced many covers of firecracker boxes.
Big Bang Art, by Siddhartha Tagore, Indian Express (Oct 26, 2008). The insightful details the journey of Indian firecracker box art and the transformation of its cover girls from demure to Atomic.

Image: Woman on left is Jayapradha. Rigth: Zeenat Aman.

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