Long (machete) in the hands
Song on the lips
Turn around and see
The Darshan boys gang
These lines were emblazoned on a giant flex poster on the Venkateshwara Cinema in Bengaluru’s Magadi Road, celebrating the release of Kannada film star Darshan’s movie Kurukshetra in August 2019. Made by a fan club of D-Boss, as the actor is popularly called by his fans, the poster featured an image of the superstar—playing Duryodhan in the mythological film based on the Mahabharata—surrounded by a battery of well-wishers and admirers.
Artist Ravikumar Kashi recalls theatre authorities looking alarmed as he photographed the poster as part of a long-time project. In August 2018, the Karnataka High Court directed the city’s municipal corporation, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), to remove all flex banners and hoardings in the city, citing environmental concerns. While their popularity decreased after the directive, these outdoor advertisements have far from disappeared from Bengaluru’s skyline.
In his new book Flexing Muscles, a visual reading and analysis of the imagery and medium of flex banners in Bengaluru, Kashi notes that almost a year after the court’s directive, the banners have begun to visibly resurface. “This is especially notable at the edges of the city—where the ban is not imposed as strictly—with the trend slowly navigating its way back into the city as well,” he writes.
At a time when the death of a 23-year-old woman in Chennai has revived the debate around illegal hoardings, Flexing Muscles traces a link between flex banners and the pro-Kannada groups that have emerged in Bengaluru in the last few years owing to an influx of people from other states to the IT city. Most of these groups have Sene (army), Pada (force) or Shakti (courage) in their names. Kashi lists around 34 such sene in the book but there are many more.