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The Subtle Art of Political Messaging as Practiced by the Laundrymen of Mumbai

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The Subtle Art of Political Messaging as Practiced by the Laundrymen of Mumbai

Nov. 21, 2022, 5:00 a.m. ET
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By Rishi Chandna

Mr. Chandna is a documentary filmmaker.

In India during religious festivals, political elections and even banal events like politicians’ birthdays, large banners go up in public places. These posters share nearly identical elements: portraits of devotees, politicians or aspiring politicians and messages devoted to elders or the gods.

In the midst of the pandemic two years ago, the streets of my neighborhood in Mumbai were filled instead with cautionary signs about the coronavirus. With nationwide restrictions and the major religious festival of Ganeshotsav approaching, would the quintessential posters heralding the festival also change?

I began spending time with a group of neighborhood laundry workers whose association regularly created and featured themselves on posters. Their work is in hopes of enjoying a few days of fame. As they say, “Without a poster, you don’t exist.”

The short documentary above is a wry exploration of how religion, politics and science intersect in a ubiquitous poster culture.

Rishi Chandna is a Mumbai-based filmmaker. He directed the Op-Doc “Tungrus and the Chicken From Hell.”

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Op-Docs is a forum for short, opinionated documentaries by independent filmmakers. Learn more about Op-Docs and how to submit to the series. Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

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