April 28, 2010

What's in a movie name ?


Bollywood film titles have drawn on numerology, mythology, current affairs and swear words among other personal quirks. Three weeks ago, a commercial film was the first to have the word ‘sex’ in its title. TOI-Crest decodes the name game

We’ve said it above, but it’s worth repeating — Love Sex aur Dhokha is the first Bollywood film to have the word ‘sex’ in its title. Take a bow, Dibakar Banerjee, Ekta Kapoor and the Indian Censor Board. Because you have taken history and given it a new twist that will go a long way in changing how we view Bollywood.

Sex makes news
Balaji Telefilms’ COO Vikram Malhotra believes the title (and its acronym LSD) would have sunk a decade ago. “But today’s audience is open to discussing almost anything,’’ says Malhotra, adding that the movie’s content proved that the title was not just a gimmick. The Association of Motion Picture and Television Programme Producers (AMPTPP) rejected LSD’s title the first time, “but when Dibakar went and explained the concept of the film to them, both the Association as well as the Censors passed it,” he adds.

Like anywhere else, sex also sells in movie names. Not surprisingly, a quick scan through a list of movie titles registered throws up some interesting ones with the s-word in them. Pritish Nandy Communications has registered Sex Hazir Ho, while Suniel Shetty’s Popcorn Entertainment has rights to The Yoga of Marriage Love and Sex. Competing only with the Bhatts, in the ‘news inspires movies’ category, is Madhur Bhandarkar, who has quickly bagged the rights to Sex Swami Aur Videotape. Bhandarkar, who also has rights to names like Godhra, Jessica and 9/11, says movie names and headlines feed off each other. “Only yesterday, I saw a news item titled Love Sania and Dhokha,’’ he says, adding that those who know him believe that if he were not a filmmaker, he would have been a journalist. “News stories charge me up.”

The way we were
Film author Dilip Thakur recalls how all hell broke loose when BK Adarsh’s film Gupt Gyan (1974), a film on sex education came about. The movie was initially banned, but the efforts of Atal Behari Vajpayee, Chandra Shekhar and some other political leaders ensured it finally hit the box-office. It was lauded by physicians as well as the public and was one of the first movies to be screened in girls’ colleges and hostels.

Soon after, BR Ishara’s Prem Shastra (1974) was also released, but it failed at the BO. Ishara who was known to make movies with bold titles (Mann Tera Tan Mera, Charitra, Sautela Pati) also directed the Rehana Sultan-starrer Chetna (that had a flash of bare thighs in the poster). “I think today’s audience has no patience or tolerance,” says Ishara, “So all we can do is shock them.”

Names & numbers
Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai launched more than just Hrithik Roshan. This was also the first time numerologist Sanjay B Jumaani attempted to steer the fate of a film. “I added an extra ‘a’ in Na and Pyar and Hrithik became an overnight hit,” says Jumaani, now numerologist to the stars. He also takes credit for Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s success. “After I asked him to add his father’s name to his own, Vipul has given superhits,” says Jumaani, who has asked the producer-director to name his forthcoming film Action Replayy, with an extra ‘y’ in the end.

The Manmohan Desai way
Time was when a movie title was decided much later and a film was launched with just a production number. “Manmohan Desai was one of the few directors who thought of a name before he began a film,” says Prakash Pange, an old associate of Desai. “I remember him calling up Amitabh Bachchan to tell him that he was making a film with him in and as Mard. I then flew down to Mangalore where Mr Bachchan was shooting and got a picture of his fist as a promotional picture for the movie.” When film financier Anant Kumar laughed at Desai, who said he had planned to call another film Amar Akbar Anthony, Pange recalls Desai saying the name would become an anthem of sorts. “And it did.”

Means what
There are times when a title has gone against a film. Trade analyst Komal Nahata says a Lucknow theatre manager told him that the audience thought the recent Hum Tum Aur Ghost had something to do with gosht (mutton) and so avoided the film. “People didn’t understand what Road, Movie meant so they didn’t go down that road at all. LSD, on the other hand, generated curiosity and drew audiences,” explains Nahata. The analyst also believes that the audience has not changed much over the years. “One can understand that Wake Up Sid was targeted at an urban audience but something like Well Done Abba, a film about water woes in a village, is so mixed up that people didn’t bother with the film at all.”

I repeat
Script and dialogue writer Javed Siddiqui who has to his credit movies such as Umrao Jaan, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Baazigar feels there is a dearth of titles in the industry and that is coming through. “Yeh shabdon ki majboori hain aur kuch nahin,’’ he says. Jeetendra has worked in two movies called Aulad (1968, 1987). And both Dharmendra and son Sunny Deol have acted in films called Dillagi (1978, 1999).

Siddiqui laments the repeated use of movie names like Umrao Jaan (1981, 2006), saying one never knows which version is being referred to. “Devdas has been made at least 17 times, which is probably why the latest version was called Dev D. Thankfully it wasn’t titled D. Das,” he says. Incidentally, Siddiqui is currently working on a documentary on Guru Dutt. “The epic Pyasaa was initially called Pyaas,” he reveals. “But, perfectionist that he was, Guru Dutt said the word Pyaas didn’t bring out the essence of the film in its entirety and changed the name to Pyaasa.”

I swear
With titles like Shree 420, Awara, Junglee and Bewakoof, movie names often crossed the line, yet ensured the hero’s character was always endearing. But when Shah Rukh openly played dark roles (Baazigar, Darr, Anjaam), the director made sure the movie name was not negative. Cut to Kaminey and the forthcoming Badmash Company (incidentally both have Shahid Kapur in the lead) and one notices the industry has come a long way. “A title really is the director’s prerogative and it should represent the film for what it is,” says Shahid, who claims he was never apprehensive of the Kaminey title. “On the contrary, I thought it was very true to the film.”

Constantly changing
“Titles are to movies what fragrance is to flowers,” says the ever-poetic Mahesh Bhatt, who gave us Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke and Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahi. Bhatt has constantly chopped and changed the names of his movies to suit the times. “Traditionalists in our business concede that having a good title is half the battle won. A title that works in small-town India may not work with a multiplex audience and distributors are known to lobby with producers to get a title that caters to their constituency. But with changing demographics, movies and their titles are both changing,” says Bhatt. The director went from middle-of-the-road titles in the ’80s (Arth, Saaransh, Naam) to youthoriented movie names in the ’90s (Aashiqui, Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahi, Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke) and catered to the Hinglish audience at the turn of the millennium (Murder, Gangster, Jism, Crook).

Master showman
Jaiprakash Choksey, who has written Jan Naayaak, a book on Raj Kapoor (and also distributed his films) says the filmmaker registered Satyam Shivam Sundaram in 1954. The film was finally made in 1978. “The story was inspired by Lata Mangeshkar’s life, of a woman with a divine voice and a plain face. In fact, Raj Kapoor wanted her in the film but there was no way Lataji would have acted in the film,” says Choksey. Raj Kapoor also gave Hindi cinema its first acronym title with Ram Teri Ganga Maili (RTGM). Contrary to popular belief, Choksey says the title had nothing to do with Lord Ram but referred to an incident in Ramakrishna Paramhansa’s life that Raj Kapoor had read about.

Title song
With Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge came the era of making lyrics into movie names. Incidentally, it was Kiron Kher who suggested the title for the Shah Rukh-Kajol-starrer that is still running for the sake of love and lovers. Director Karan Johar, who assisted on DDLJ, says such titles have a retro feel but might not work now. “I’m not sure Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham would draw crowds today.” Johar adds that he’s finding it tough to come up with a title for his forthcoming remake of Stepmom. “Something like Ghar Parivar or Love You Ma won’t work. Neither will an English title like Wake Up Sid (incidentally suggested by leading man Ranbir Kapoor), which will alienate a large portion of the audience.”

Gimmicks galore
Actor IS Johar was so obsessed with himself, he had many film titles credited to his name (Johar Mehmood in Goa, Johar in Kashmir, Johar Mehmood in Hong Kong and Johar in Bombay). “He also made a family planning film called Nasbandi which did catch a few eye balls,” says Thakur. Andheri Raat Mein Diya Tere Haath Mein was Dada Kondke’s attempt at a gimmicky title. It didn’t pass muster with the audience.

Sometimes the title of a film is changed to suit a particular audience. The Rishi Kapoor starrer Honeymoon was released in North India as Suhaag Raat and Amitabh Bachchan’s Nastik was called Adharmi in some places.

Mera wala title
Filmmakers are possessive about their titles and refuse to part with them easily. Raj Kanwar wanted the title Daag but since Yash Chopra refused to part with it, he had to go with Daag The Fire instead. Ram Gopal Varma’s remake of Sholay was finally released as Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag. The film bombed.

AMPTPP vice president Vikas Mohan explains that a movie title is registered after scrutiny. “A title can be registered for just Rs 250 a year. Every subsequent renewal costs Rs 100. If it has a tagline, the price doubles,” he says. “Also, a title cannot be bought or sold independently. It has to be surrendered to the association and is then given to the first person in the waiting list.” The Censor Board has always played a pivotal role in movie names. While Ramanand Sagar’s Charas and BK Adarsh’s Gupt Gyan both came under the scanner, Kaminey and LSD were let off with much less fuss. “We did deliberate upon both the names, but realised there was nothing objectionable about them,” says Vinayak Azad, regional officer of the Censor Board.