By Sreedhar Pillai
William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet -"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
However, Kollywood filmmakers and producers think differently and feel “a catchy title is a must for a film to reach across to the masses.” Right now, Kollywood film industry is witnessing the biggest ever war over titles.
Yesterday (Sep 10), a Chennai court once again adjourned by now the famous Thupakki versus Kalla Thupakki case by a week. AR Murgadoss the director of Vijay’s Thupakki scheduled as a Diwali release is unable to come out with the films teaser trailer. The buzz is that Murgadoss and producers are planning to change the title of the film.
When Vishal announced the title of his new Thiru directed film as Samaran, director Seeman objected as he had already registered the title, so it became Samar. Now another new director from Madurai has claimed that he has registered Samar more than a year back!
Now the latest title thunderbolt to hit Kollywood is that the Sasikumar starrer Sundarapandian, scheduled to release this Friday (September 14) has got a stay against it. There is a 1998 film called Sundarapandian starring Karthik,Vadivelu, Heera and Swathi produced and directed by R Raghu, which was partially released but satellite rights have not been given. Reghu and his Jupiter Film Makers have now got a stay order for the title of Sundarapandian, which means film cannot release on Sep 14.
In Kollywood a film can be registered with three industry associations Tamil Film Producers Council, Film Chamber and Producers Guild by paying a token fee of Rs 500. The latest we hear is that the Directors Union has also thrown in their hat and is insisting that their member’s title should be registered with them.
The problem is that there is no single body to register titles in Tamil industry. So anybody can register titles with one of the bodies and turn squatter and claim legitimacy over the title. Another big problem in digital era is that hundreds of low budget films costing less than Rs one crore are being made. In most cases small films want to piggy backride on big films, which leads to Kalla Thuppakki gunning for Thupakki scenario.
There is acute shortage of Tamil titles in an industry where only films titled in Tamil and that too with ‘U’ certificate are eligible for entertainment tax exemption. All major Tamil words and even sentences or popular sayings have been registered as film titles, leaving very little ‘vacant’ titles.
Big heroes always insist on catchy titles which glorify their on screen larger than life image. So producers and directors are always on the lookout for catchy titles to pander to their hero’s ego. Earlier whenever title issues came up big producers used to settle it amicably with the litigant. Those days out of court settlements used to cost only a few lakhs, now they are demanding crores. In some cases the ‘squatter’ has vested interest and may not compromise due to industry politics.
Similarly Vishnuvardhan’s Ajith multi-starrer is now untitled and we are sure a catchy title will only be given by producer AM Ratnam closer to release. Vijay’s AL Vijay film with Thalaivan as title is now confirmed as ‘unofficial’. The grapevine has it that Shankar has titled his Vikram under production as ‘I’ to hoodwink the squatters and it will have a different title closer to release.
The best thing to do now is to complete the film which would remain ‘Untitled or production number X’, and announce a title closer to release date. Kollywood producers should take a leaf out of Yashraj films which has announced its YashChopra directed Shah Rukh Khan film title only 50 days before release. The film now titled Jab Tak Hai Jaan even had a teaser trailer release without a title!
Online registration and more openness and clarity are required in case of film title registration. Unless the industry gets its act together and have a uniform board deciding on titles you can expect more title wars.