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Chitchat with Dhani Aelay
dhani aelay

November 25, 2008

Dhani Aelay is one of the prominent film poster designers in Hyderabad today. His poster designs are known for elegance as well as mass appeal. He is the permanent designer of the hit machine Puri Jagan. Here is an interview of Dhani Aelay who has neither film background nor money before venturing into poster designing.

I belong to Kadirenigudem in Nalgonda district. I studied till 10th class in Bhongiri and came to Hyderabad to pursue further studies through evening college. I used to do write for signboards for pocket money while attending college.

I started my career as a lettering artist in Tara advertising agency for a salary of Rs. 300/- per month. At that time there was no computer usage. We used to manually do the layouts. Then I joined Kanishka advertisng agency which does screen printing for a salary of Rs. 600/-. Later I joined Eenadu’s retail advertising group for a salary of Rs. 800/-. We used to design advertisements given by various clients to Eenadu newspaper. After looking at my work, they transferred me to the art department of Sitara film magazine. I used to do cover page design and inside layout designs for Sitara mag. I also used to do drawings and illustrations for Eenadu Sunday magazine. I was the one who designed ‘Vasundhara’ logo in Eenadu. Ramoji Rao was producing movies and he also made us do some logos for his films. The logo I designed was selected for Usha Kiran’s ‘Manasu Mamata’ film. During that time, I got interested in movies. I wanted to venture into poster designing.

At that time my elder brother Lakshman Aelay (a famous painting artist) came out of Eenadu and started Aelay digital studio. Our first project was Taraka Prabhuni Deeksha Mahimalu. We designed posters for various hit films including Gharana Mogudu and Ninne Pelladatha. We had absolutely no film background. We used to roam around on a Luna to get projects.

Later my brother shifted to painting line. I took over the poster designing line. I did not have any projects in hand at that time and nobody had any confidence in my ability as my brother Lakshman left our studio. At that time Puri Jagan got introduced as a director with Badri film and he gave me the project. Since then I worked for all his films except for Bachi. From that moment, I didn’t have to look back.

What made you succeed in this field?
I attribute it to my behavior. It is very important to behave well here. I am obedient, committed and sincere. And I always gave them options and never hurt their feelings though they might be wrong sometimes.

Most of the time, the story of the film and poster designs does not match. Why?
I feel that the story and the poster design theme should be interrelated. My designs always represent the theme of the film though I prefer doing separate photo shoots. I ask for the story before coming up with logo and design pattern.

It is poster designs that take films close to the movie lovers. But poster designs are not getting the respect they deserve from the film producers/directors. Why?
There are people like Puri Jagan who always give us space and respect. But most of the technicians do not give any respect or value to a poster designer. They don’t let the poster designing be an integral part of moviemaking. The situation for poster designers in Mumbai is pretty good.

How many films did you work so far?
I worked for more than 150 films with an average of 30 films an year. My portfolio includes 60% movie designs and 40% commercial designs.

How much do you charge per film?
I do charge 3-4 lacs for a big project and 1.5-2 lacs for a small project. And most of the times, we end up being paid less than we ask. Generally producers pay partly before release and pay the remaining amount only if films become successful. With a low success rate, most of the producers end up not paying us full amounts.

We do around 70 different designs for a normal film and more than 100 designs for a hit film.

All you need to design posters is photoshop software in your computer. Isn’t it?
It is a dangerous misconception to think that you could become a poster designer if you learnt photoshop. It is an art and a poster design in made in the mind. Photoshop is only a tool using which you transfer your creativity onto the screen. It comes with experience and a bit of creative imagination. One needs to do it professionally. These days I am observing this trend of producer giving poster designing work to any of his relatives thinking that photoshop knowledge is enough to do poster designing.

Which designs do you consider are the best among the ones you did?
Aa Naluguru, Itlu Sravani Subramanyam, Idiot, Badri, Arjun and Pokiri. I am proud of the logos of Badri, Pokiri, Chandamama, Telugu Cinema Vajrostavalu, Arjun and Chiruta.

Who are your regular directors?
Puri Jagan, Krishna Vamsi, SV Krishna Reddy, Chandra Siddhardh and many more.

What are your proud moments as a designer?
We were the first one in Telugu film industry to use computer in poster designing of Ninne Pelladatha film. The logo I did for Mahesh Babu’s Arjun got lots of applause. I worked for Chiruta - the first film of Ram Charan Teja. I am indebted to Puri Jagan for giving me a break and encouraging me by giving all his films.

Did you get any awards?
I won Bharata Muni award for five consecutive years for the films Itlu Sravani Subramanyam, Aa Naluguru, Pokiri, Modati Cinema and Chandamama. I also won Santosham award for Aa Naluguru film.

What are your future plans?
I am going to venture into computer graphics (logo animation, title cards and TV promos).

Contact Info:
The interested clients may email me at [email protected] or call me on 98492 37282

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