Culture & Society

Names Have Power: How Names Do Injustice With Some Films

There are titles of films that do no justice to the film. A not so apt title merely dilutes good content keeping the audience and cash registers away for a flimsy reason.

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What made films like ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’, ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’, ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’, ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’, ‘Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin’, ‘Tezaab’, ‘Dil Se’, ‘Betaab’, ‘Baazigar’, ‘Shaan’, or for that matter ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, ‘Kaho Na Pyaar Hai’, etc. click? Was it merely the banner, the story, the direction, the actors, the music, comedy, dialogues, locations, and the works? What if any of these films had names other than the ones given to them? What if DDLJ was called just ‘Dulhaniya’? Hard to say now since the iconic film cannot be imagined with even a minor change even in our wildest imagination. 

However, there are times one comes across or rather chances upon —especially now with OTT giving us choices galore and the option to watch cinema from the comfort of our homes after careful scrolling and scrutiny— a really nice film but with a title that actually does not gel with it. Sadly, some turn out to be extremely thought-provoking and good films that one skipped simply because of a weird title. 

A very recent example of the film ‘Tu Jhoothi, Main Makkaar’ is a case in point. The title suggests a conwoman-conman kind of film and one would like to avoid watching it with ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ doing great justice to the conning act. Starting on a rather fun and light note, the film though overdramatic in the beginning and some latter parts actually goes on to grab your attention in its dealing with a serious issue that plagues the Indian social fabric today. In a very contemporary context, the film explores the fears and doubts of a young girl set to marry in a joint family.

While India has had the joint family system woven into its very genes for ages, the current generation that has seen and grown up in nuclear family set-ups aping the West has issues that appear bizarre and uncalled for to someone who has lived otherwise. Ditto for our hero Ranbir Kapoor who has a doting boisterous mother (Dimple Kapadia), a non-interfering calm father (Boney Kapoor surprisingly), a loving grandmother who does not refrain from discussing her exploits with her husband in front of her grandchildren, a sister and a brother-in-law and a chirpy little niece. Add to this his constant companion and buddy (Anubhav Singh Bassi) who is also his partner in crime. 

In this extremely loving, caring, and protective environment enters Shraddha Kapoor who though very much in love with Ranbir’s character begins to sense the role of his family in his life. She comes to a point where the entire set-up appears claustrophobic to her independent professional self. She wants the boy sans his family! 

That’s where the film scores. The way a nice Indian family boy would handle such a situation where the girl is not even slightly maligned though she is the one who wishes to break away from these binding chains of a marriage where family would take precedence (whew!), speaks well of the films’ story and script. The dialogues between the chief protagonists are simple, to the point, and very relevant in the given situation. The film gets interesting and of course entertaining with all the drama, the banter, and the usual boy chasing the girl to the airport scene in the end. 


But the title simply does not justify the theme of the film. The name of the film has to do with a very small part of the whole film that intends to actually boast of a very different subject. 

Perhaps, with a better-suited title, it might have gained a larger audience and garnered better box office collections. 
That’s also the case with the film ‘Pagglait’. If you have watched the film, you would ask, by the end of it, what sort of madness were they talking about? Where is it? Who is mad? Or does the director merely has this very patriarchal mindset where he deems a woman mad because she is being her natural self, coming to terms with her emotions, accepting and reacting to her feelings as and how and when they come? But then how could he have portrayed the same with surprising sensitivity and élan?  Perhaps, he was at loggerheads when it came to the title! 

For here, the story simply revolves around the lives of a middle-class family that has lost their young son and his cherubic nubile wife of a few months finds it difficult to grieve even as she sees the grief-stricken parents devastated by this tragedy. That she is unable to cry and feels hungry —even wants her dose of coke, chips, and golgappas— has to do with the fact that she was married only for a couple of months and did not develop strong feelings for her husband in this short time span. She had just begun to know him. Relatable. 


How she gradually opens up about her feelings with her best friend, begins to understand the shenanigans of the extended family that descends from across the country with their own physical and emotional baggage, follows with grace what she is supposed to, observes the goings on in the house, and ultimately gets to know her husband a little by interacting with the woman he had loved before he married, is what form the crux of this sensitive story. Sanya Malhotra as the widow fits the role to the tee and conveys much through expressions and monosyllables and so this would not be a film to miss. Her character comes across as an educated, caring, and responsible girl who would naturally take time to adjust to a new household, a new family, and its troubles. 

By the time the funeral rites of the boy get over, his widow is ready to embark on a journey of her own, shouldering the responsibility of her in-laws and the family, following very much in the footsteps of her late husband. Pagglait, she is not, for sure. 

Released last year, Madhuri Dixit’s ‘Maja Ma’ has nothing to the effect of having fun. Rather, it’s a serious film with a current serious issue at hand — the LGBTQ. And this time, in the closet is the quintessential middle-aged housewife in a Gujarati set-up. The problem is the same—acceptance of sexual preference— only at a later stage in life. Madhuri’s character brings out the dilemma, the initial hesitation, the quiet acceptance, and the final confrontation with truth with poise and grace. But once again, the title deludes. 


And so does ‘Helicopter Eela’. The story of an overprotective mother went unnoticed despite Kajol in the lead and Pradeep Sarkar at the helm as director. A fine film, the title perhaps spelled the nemesis. Few of us would know the meaning of a helicopter parent —a Western concept— described by Wikipedia as one “who pays extremely close attention to a child's experiences and problems” and constantly hovers over all aspects of a child’s life. 

A lot of films might go unseen just because of a title gone wrong. In Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World, Mark Twain wrote, “Names are not always what they seem.” Likely, so. 

(Headline taken from Rick Riordan’s ‘The Lightning Thief’)

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