“What’s in a name? That which we call a Salman Khan film, by any other name would be as crappy”

Picking a name for a child is a big responsibility. Not only are you giving it a sense of identity, but you’re also trying to find a name that will lend itself the least to unflattering nicknames and lifelong ridicule (Note to new parents: Avoid names like Hardik, Anal and Dikshita if you have dreams of sending your kid to a foreign country to study some day). But if you think naming a child is difficult, you have never tried naming a film.

Producers swear that names make or break a film. A young producer I once met, said that he refused to listen to film scripts unless the title was catchy. “If the name doesn’t excite me, how can I expect it to bring in crowds,” he said. Atleast books have an entire cover that they get judged on.

The irony here is that script writers are not allowed to register movie titles. That privilege is bestowed only on producers. Even if a writer has thought of an excellent title for his story, chances are that it is owned by one of the big movie studios. Just like wheat and onion prices are artificially raised by hoarding, movie names are registered in the hundreds by film production houses who hold onto them by renewing them every year. They pay a few hundreds per year officially, but sell it to other producers who might need the titles for lakhs. With this dearth of titles it’s no wonder that we’ve had films titled; ?:A question mark, Chaalis Chauraasi 4084,, Naughty@40 and 404.

In the absence of good Hindi titles, many producers switch to English. Madhur Bhandarkar’s go-to options are simple English nouns closest to his subject like Jail, Heroine, Fashion, Traffic Signal and Corporate. Whereas, Anees Bazmee doesn’t care about trivial things like the subject of the movie. He prefers the simplest English words he can find like No Entry, Welcome, Thank you, No Problem, Ready, Welcome back and Sandwich.

Even if you do find a name that both works for your film and is available, you’re far from done. Our country is full of over-sensitive people just waiting to go to court to get your movie stalled because its name has hurt some sentiment of theirs.

Here are 6 movies whose titles were changed before release:

1. Sanjay L. Bhansali had to change his film RamLeela’s name to Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela because apparently even Gods take offence to the desecration of Shakespeare’s works.
2. Priyadarshan had to change his film’s title from Billu Barber to just Billu presumably because the hair grooming professionals of this country really hate Shah Rukh Khan’s pony tail (or is that a rat tail?).
3. Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Again was changed to Once Upon Ay Time In Mumbai Dobaara because of the widely held belief that Indians will zone out if you say more than six English words in a row to them.
4. Sohail Khan’s film changed its name from Mental to Azaad and finally to Jai Ho because Salman Khan.
5. The changing of Prabhudheva’s Rambo Rajkumar to R… Rajkumar was interpreted as a possible jibe by Shahid Kapoor at Shah Rukh Khan’s stuttering skills.
6. Ram Gopal Varma Ki Sholay was changed to Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag because Ram Gopal Varma is a man who can’t get enough of making a fool of himself.

So the next time a child asks you why Rakesh Roshan’s film was named Krrish 3 when there was no Krrish 2, you just show him this picture.

[The views expressed here are the author's own.]


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