Wanted, Hangover, The Japanese Wife, Clerk, Houseful, Challenge, Chalo Let’s Go…, Madly Bangalee.
What’s in a name? Shakespeare might have thought there wasn’t much but Tollywood thinks there’s a lot to lose or gain, depending on whether the name is in the Bard’s tongue or Vidyasagar’s.
With a spate of Bengali releases bearing English words in their titles, Tollywood is going trendy.
Shree Venkatesh Films, which not so long ago boasted box-office hits with names like Sasurbari Zindabad, agrees that an English name gives “a trendy feel” to a film now. “Bengali films are changing, in terms of technology and look. They cater to the urban upmarket audience, so having a title like Challenge, Wanted or Autograph gives the film an edge. The days of Pratibad and Pratishodh are gone,” says Mahendra Soni of Shree Venkatesh Films.
But an English name for the sake of an English name is not the answer. The title of a film must finally depend on the subject. “For example, our recent release Amanush couldn’t have had an English title,” explains Soni.
The second consideration is that some English words are more commonly used than their Bengali counterparts.
“The word ‘wanted’ is not confined to English anymore. Even my tea-boy understands it. Our film is about a criminal on the run and the police have plastered his posters with the word ‘wanted’ on his picture. Before zeroing in on this title, we toyed with 50 other names but none was suitable,” says Himanshu Dhanuka, the producer of Wanted.
English words often turn out to be more apt than their literal Bengali translation. “Challenge nibi na sala made so much impact but just try saying that in Bengali — ‘Sharto nibi na sala.’ It sounds hilarious,” adds Dhanuka.
Challenge, for instance, was all about “attitude” and the title had to reflect that. “The protagonist (played by Dev) had little to do except fight goons and dance with his girlfriend, so the first thing that came to my mind was ‘challenge’,” explains director Raj Chakraborty.
Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guha, whose Cross Connection worked well with the youth, have picked Benglish for their next film — Prem By Chance. “Cross Connection was made for a semi-urban audience. I couldn’t have called it Durobhasey Prem! Nobody would have understood that. My next film Prem By Chance has the two most common English words. ‘By chance’ is a part of our lingo,” says Sudeshna.
English words that come easy hold the key. Try Hangover in Bengali and you will know. “My film is a comedy about a middle-aged man with a soft spot for pretty young girls. The Bengali equivalent for ‘hangover’ would have been ‘chhonkchhonkani’! We couldn’t possibly have replaced ‘hangover’ with that,” says Prabhat Roy. Hangover, starring Prosenjit, is currently running in the suburbs.
Makers like Roy will fall back on an English title only if they can’t find a suitable Bengali word. “My next film is called Binimoy (starring Debasree Roy and Rituparna Sengupta). I am not calling it ‘exchange’,” he stresses.
Having an English title no longer means alienating the non-English-speaking audience in suburban Bengal. Because a simple English name is often better than a tongue-twisting Bengali word.
“My distributors were furious with the title Mehul Bonir Sereng. They told me nobody would understand it. But I stuck to my decision. Why can’t we have poetic titles like Asani Sanket and Jotugriha?” asks Sekhar Das, who did a volte-face with the naming of his under-production film Necklace, which was earlier called Chorer Bou.
“After re-reading the script I felt Necklace would be more apt than Chorer Bou because the story centres around a lost necklace. Besides, ‘necklace’ would interest the youth,” he says.
The last word about the first word of a film comes from Srijit Mukherjee whose debut film Autograph, starring Prosenjit and Nandana Sen, is in queue for release. “The bottom-line is, English or Bengali, the name must have an impact. ‘Soi’ is the Bengali for ‘autograph’, but even people in the suburbs come up to stars and ask for their ‘autograph’,” he justifies.
Clearly, when it comes to the name of a Tollywood film, it’s more than just a game