A tribute: Kiran Prayagi remembers his time with Burjor Poonawala

Burjor Poonawala is no more.

The doyen of the Indian pre-press industry for over six decades who started his career as a trainee blockmaker under his father’s guidance Framroze Poonawala who founded Commercial Art Engravers in 1932. Burjor along with his two brothers Dadi and Cyrus had qualified from the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts, London, joined the business and did most of the modernisation and also branched into litho-offset pre-press activities, Comart Lithographers.

08 Oct 2018 | By PrintWeek India

For Burjor it was a great beginning as trainee blockmaker and picking up new technologies based on sound fundamental principles, and progressively grow with technology beginning handmade letterpress blocks, powderless blocks, vario-klischograph electronically engraved blocks, continuous-tone scanners, contact screen scanners, digital electronic halftone generating scanners, electronic page makeup systems, blockproof presses, digital proofing systems, etc. I do not think if we will get such a versatile personality in future to come. Letterpress blocks made for American SPAN magazine are high standards of quality even today. Many CEOs of renowned advertising agencies had their basic training at Commercial Art and Comart. 

I had the golden opportunity to work very closely with Burjor on various aspects of colour reproductions over four decades. We had hundreds of meetings and colour scanner demonstrations overseas. He was one of my gurus from whom I had learned a lot.

When I was in-charge of photopolymer plates division (nyloprint) at BASF, we use to print BASF calendar with nyloprint plates in the late seventies and early eighties. That time there was hardly any pre-press house that could make colour separations for photopolymer plates. It was Burjor who helped us for some years, and then I used to make plates. The calendar used to have excellent print quality and was in high demand even in BASF Germany. One year our calendar theme was ‘monuments in India’, for this Burjor had kindly given a 35mm slide of Taj Mahal which he had shot in Agra. Thus, he was also an excellent photographer.  

Later, during my association with Crosfield colour scanners and systems, we practically used to meet every other day for technical discussion. During this time I learnt a lot about how the photographers, designers, and advertising agencies look at technologies and how to make sure they come round. We together held seminars and workshops for photographers and advertising agencies and at shared platforms at some printers’ events.

Today, Comart is recognised as India's largest pre-media and print companies - and a lot of it has to do with the time and energy Burjor Poonawala poured into the pre-press colour work for advertising, publishing plus requirements for indoor signage and large-format outdoor media.

Burjor is survived by his wife, sons Kurshed, and daughter Shehnaz.

Burjor Poonawala felicitated by BMPA