Chennai, March 8: Kamalahasan has chugged into a storm on Mumbai Express, oops, Mumbai viraivu vandi.
Self-appointed protectors of the Tamil language have red-flagged his new film, insisting that he change its name as it has 'lots of English' in it.
The 'express' in the name was an affront to the spirit of Tamil and its purity, the Tamil Protection Committee cobbled together by the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and the Dalit Panthers of India said.
Had Kamalahasan opted for viraivu vandi ' which means fast vehicle ' it would have made PMK leader S. Ramadoss happy. But his own party exposed the folly in taking such an extreme stand by referring to him as 'doctor' (not the Tamil maruthuvar) today, much to the mirth of chief minister Jayalalithaa and others.
The issue burst onto centrestage at a seminar on media law, at which Kamalahasan refused to get cowed.
'The title, Mumbai Express, will not be changed.'
'I am certainly open to dialogue if people have objections to my film but I will not submit myself to threats of violence,' he said
Wondering how the name of a train would go against the spirit of Tamil, he asked: 'There is a train called Tirunelveli Express. Will these groups object to its name too'
Kamalahasan's earlier film Sandiyar had similarly run into trouble with a small Dalit outfit threatening to disrupt the shoot if the name was not changed. It had claimed the name connoted a community, which would not be tolerated. The film was renamed on Jayalalithaa's advice.
The Tamil purists became butts of laughter in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, too, with the chief minister taking a jab at their penchant for language protection. 'Is it wrong to expect from the Tamil purists to speak in pure Tamil' she asked.
The barb came after ADMK legislators clawed into a PMK colleague, I. Ganesan, for referring to his party chief as 'Doctor' Ramadoss. Given Ramadoss was the leader of the Tamil protection syndrome ' his son and health minister Anbumani Ramadoss, however, speaks English in Parliament ' how come an English word was being used to address him, they asked.
Ganesan immediately switched to the Tamil equivalent ' maruthuvar ' leaving the House in splits.
Back at the seminar, things were not half as light-hearted, though. Joshua Rozenberg, the editor of a leading London newspaper who was in the chair, said the demand to change a film name was 'an attack on the freedom of expression'.
'It is strange that the title Mumbai Express should have got into trouble because in the south, it is an increasing trend to have fully Emglish titles,' film industry analyst Vinod Mirani said in Mumbai.
Of late, a lot of Bollywood films have had names in part-Hindi and part English. The trend has yet to start in Hollywood though it has been coming up with innovative translations of titles of movies dubbed in Hindi.
So, while Dunston Checks In became Ek bandar hotel ke andar, Bend it like Beckham was named Football Shootball hai Rabba. As yet, the purists in LA have not protested.