What Makes For A Successful Film Title?
Join us on a journey as we explore what goes into naming a film successfully.
Apna Haath Jagannath
Translation into English: Our Hand Is The Lord
Could you ever even wildly imagine this to be the title of a Hindi film? Well, it is. Curb your shock right there! This film was released back in 1960. One can only imagine what was going through the minds of the people who came up with that title!
This is just the beginning of the wacky lot.
Sankat Mein Swasthya Aur Safai
Kab? Kyun? Aur Kahaan?
And then, the gladiator of a title –
Ankur Maina Aur Kabootar!
Yes! You read the last one correctly. Unreal, isn’t it? This happens to be a rather recent film – 1991. There is an ocean of Bollywood film titles we dare not even utter, not to mention innumerable films with bad titles that no one has ever watched.
Does this mean that all Bollywood films with bad and/or incomprehensible or bizarre titles tank at the box office?
Not really. There have also been plenty of instances in the history of popular Indian cinema where good films with great stories, but far-out titles, have done extremely well. These titles have never hindered the film’s box office run.
Dabangg, for instance, was never part of colloquial Hindi vocabulary till it arrived in the form of a Salman Khan blockbuster.
Tashan which means style and Ishqiya – a derivate of ‘ishq’ and ‘liya’, which means lust – are also rather rare titles as well as rare words. These titles are used in order to intrigue and then excite audiences. Despite its perplexing title, Ishqiya had exciting casting, a bold story and did rather well at the box office. This clearly means that there is scope for an unusually or even ‘badly titled’ film to do well, as long as it has other USPs such as a strong script and/or inspiring characters.
But the title definitely holds sway with the audience’s psyche. It’s probably why they always say:
Naam Mein Wazan Hona Chahiye!
Is it really that big a deal? Is it possible that a name (or a title) is a deal-breaker or an incredibly positive catalyst? Let’s look at it another way. Would history have turned out differently if Napoleon the Great had been named Pierre DuMont? Would legendary Hindi films like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam be just as brilliant had they been called Pyaar Dobaara and Teen Tigada Kaam Bighaada? And is there a thing such as a successful film title?
Seeta Aur Geeta
Such film titles clearly establish that the stories are going to be based on the lives and adventures of one or more of these central, crucial characters. These are no-nonsense, crisp, to-the-point titles. You expect to seek delight in Chhota Chetan’s magical world and that is exactly what you get throughout the film. These titles seem to be more successful in terms of being in perfect sync with the subject and the entirety of the film. As are –
Mere Brother Ki Dulhan &
In today’s world of fierce competition and extensive film promotion and marketing, collections from the opening weekend itself – from the first 3 days of a film’s release – determine its success or failure at the box office. This leads us to understand that a film title could be termed successful when it grabs the audience’s attention for the first three days; when it intrigues and beckons them to make it to the first show of the very first day.
Even though there are certain fixed elements that do contribute to an ideal film title, there is clearly no golden rule book for creating a successful film title.
It’s as simple with film titles as it is with new culinary cuisines. If you don’t know what you are going to get out of it, you’re mostly likely not going to bother trying it. But at the same time, when something exotic or unusual comes your way, you feel more inclined, maybe even a little tempted, to give it a try.