The Malayalam film industry is going through a strange fixation, one involving English titles. A quick leaf through a list of titles of the past 3-4 years suggests that a lot of hard work has gone into creating comic-sounding inanities. It’s almost as if the scriptwriter, director and other assorted intellectuals of the film world were banging their heads to come up with appropriate titles—and they hit upon: Run Baby Run, Hide N’Seek, Banking Hours 10 to 4, Angry Babies in Love, Philips Monkey Pen, Last Bench, Mad Dad, Chewing Gum...well, you get the drift. It’s enough to get the language purists frothing at the mouth. Is the Malayalam language going to the English dogs? You bet! And are the filmi titles aiding this degeneration? Naah, says the ‘progressive’ lot. “Anything goes in a language like Malayalam,” is a popular thought balloon in Mollywood today.
There are not too many who think these titles are cool though. There have been reports warning that the government panel to study the problems plaguing Malayalam cinema, headed by the illustrious Adoor Gopalakrishnan, has recommended that Malayalam films with English titles not be given any subsidies, even that they be banned. Now that’s got a controversy brewing, given that some 425 of the 726 Malayalam films made since 2009 have English titles. But Adoor says the media reports haven’t got it right. “The report hasn’t even been submitted and the media has taken parts of it and twisted it out of proportion. We don’t want to encourage English titles, but we are not parochial either. We are not fundamentalists.”
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The counter to this is, of course, is that complex Malayalam titles don’t go down too well with the common man now. “Sometimes, Malayalam words are a little difficult to understand...it’s easier to adopt English words that are understood by all,” says Anil Thomas. Director B. Unnikrishnan feels the whole controversy is again a non-issue and points out that language can’t be contained within walls. “It’s an illusion to believe that Malayalam language is in a pure form at any given time. It has to evolve and we should not give into any sort of language jingoism. The title depends on the screenplay and the content. I gave a title like ‘Grandmaster’ to my film because I could not find a suitable word to replace that in Malayalam. Titles have nothing to do with film content. There are enough instances when a film has a Malayalam title but has very poor content,” he says.
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Now the whole subsidy controversy harks back to the Tamil film industry—specifically to a clever political ploy by the former DMK government to give tax sops for films with titles in the language to encourage so-called ‘Tamil pride’. Is Kerala heading in that direction?
The Malayali is multilingual, no doubt (The Birds & the Bees, Aug 11). Maybe it’s a survival instinct, but to say that Mollywood films have English titles due to a colonial hangover is unjust. Malayalam films have always taken up different issues, in sync with the sensibilities of an educated audience.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
People like Adoor have made good films in their time, no doubt, but now they should let the younger generation to decide what name they want to give their films.
M. Sankunny, Palakkad
Malayali is multi lingual, a fact none can deny.
May be a survival instinct. To say that Mallu's
have 'colonial hangover' is unjust. Malayalam
films exibit things of different value, and mostly
the producer and director knows how to click the
educated audience sensibilities. Period.
Malayalam is itself a fusion of Ancient Sanskrit and Tamil with some other languages which we dont see now.
It is thus representing cultural diversity of Ancient India.
People like Minu Itttype are rabble rousers and want a issue when there is none.. you must rather worry about why this prosperous state has to send 50% of its youth to other places for jobs, why this state imports 50% of its food and electricity from outside..
The economy of Kerala minus remittances and tourism is ZERO. Plantations are unlikely to help, since Africa with its cheaper labour will soon produce all the tea and cardamom and rubber at lower prices to whole world including India. And plantations will be made into private resorts and golf clubs and in another 20 years the blue collar labourers in kerala will lose the only industry they can find jobs in Kerala.
All this seems to bother none of your types. Why?
Yes TamilNadu did do the cheap act of making tamil titled films tax free, the real intent was to handover the industry to one party and family. We know. But Tamilnadu also is an industrial giant and produces much of the electricity and rice that kerala needs. And people from other states come to TN for jobs. Did you ponder on that?
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