Talking Movies: Title Trauma
The writer is the entertainment editor of The New Indian Express
Increasingly, it’s becoming clear that at some point during the last two years, filmmakers likely got frustrated with being unable to come up with original titles, or having run out of old titles to reuse. It appears that they threw their hands up, and perhaps held a titling conference of some sort to find a solution. It’s likely at this event that some wise man began, “Adhagapattadhu Magajanangale,” and someone immediately interrupted, “Stop! That’s the title I was looking for!” Adhagapattadhu Magajanangale, ladies and gentlemen, is the title of this week’s release that’s starring Thambi Ramaiah’s son, Umapathi.
For a long time, filmmakers found a new gold mine in old songs to unearth potential titles. See, it also came with the added advantage of already being familiar with the audience. Gautham Menon, in particular, was well-attuned to this technique. Pachaikili Muthucharam. Neethaane En Ponvasantham. Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya.
But it appears that trend is behind us now. Perhaps on account of having run out of old films to be inspired by, a new filmmaker has now tried to come up with a derivative title from a recent film, Trisha Illanaa Nayanthara. The upcoming film of debut director Shiva is titled Trisha Irukkumbothe Nayanthara. I shudder to think of the horrific, disturbing mutations the title will likely go through should either director decide to make a sequel. How long before either actress decides they have had enough?
Nevertheless, there’s a new trend in town. Our filmmakers have gone the Bollywood way and are embracing titles that are so long that reviews of them need only mention them about five times in order to reach the required word count. And oh, unlike earlier, you don’t need to spend days coming up with these titles. You just have to overhear a conversation, and pick up any random sentence.
Don’t believe me? Say, for instance, if you were discussing Nayagan with your friends, and that one friend we all have who can’t resist showing off his expertise, goes, “Naalu perukku nalladhuna edhuvume thappilla”... Well, that entire sentence is the name of a film that released earlier this March. Some of these titles even try to supply you with life lessons. Like the film that released a couple of years ago titled Vellaiya Irukiravan Poi Solla Maataan. An appropriate response to film titles these days is, “I see. Thank you very much.” There’s one upcoming film that seems to genuinely care about your welfare: An action-thriller called Semma Botha Aagatha. This sort of title comes with the added bonus of being able to also function as the alcohol disclaimer that’s aired before a film.
More health advice masquerading as a film title comes in the form of Yenda Thalaiyila Yenna Vekkala, which reportedly is an upcoming horror comedy. Seeing as we have more or less run out of inventive horror narratives, if I had to guess this film’s story, I’d imagine it’s about the ghost of a person who died just as their hair was being oiled, and hence, haunts those who don’t.
Partner up with a coconut oil brand, and you have a financially viable product on hand, or perhaps even the foundation for a, erm, well-oiled franchise. These titles don’t just belong to low-budget films starring anonymous actors, mind you. A comedy-drama in the making, featuring Prabhudheva in the lead, suggests that its makers were likely attempting to mimic Chinese people when they stumbled upon its title: Yung Mung Sung. There’s another comedy drama whose title also serves the purpose of registering a fairly innocuous, but common complaint: En Aaloda Seruppa Kaanom.
Titles are no more a challenge. Any five-word casual sentence you use in a conversation can become a title, and the advantage of using a long sentence, of course, is that you’ll likely never run out of them. Say your mother wants to know where you went last evening: Naan Nethikku Kovil Ponen. Say you are ordering food at a restaurant: Enakku Adai Aviyal Venum. Say you are talking to a doctor: Thalai Valikkara Madhri Irukku.
Wait, before I go on, I better rush to get these ingenious titles registered quickly.