Bollywood's Tongue-Twisting Trend: Hit or Miss?

Bollywood's Tongue-Twisting Trend: Hit or Miss?

Do long-winded film names make the cut? Or do they spell box office debacle? Let’s rewind

Dinesh RahejaUpdated: Monday, April 22, 2024, 10:48 AM IST
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Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya |

The title of Karan Johar’s just-announced production is a multisyllabic mouthful — Sunny Sanskari Ki Tulsi Kumari. Notably, his previous film too had a meandering moniker — Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani.

Ajay Devgn’s next release has a title Auron Mein Kahan Dum Tha that requires considerable dum just to utter in one breath. And a couple of months ago, another release too had a tongue-twisting title — Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya.

Intrigued whether long-winded film titles hold appeal or just irritation value, we challenged a cross section of people: Can you tell us the title of the Shahid Kapoor-Kriti Sanon human-robot love story released weeks ago?

Veteran trade analyst Taran Adarsh laments, “I can’t recall the exact title even after reviewing the film.”

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani |

Corporate Executive Shree Bhave opines, “I don’t think anyone remembers the title. If it was a SRK film, people would have.”

Aspiring actress Kajal Pawar has worked out a helpful memory key: “I wouldn’t have remembered,” she laughs, “if there wasn’t a song with similar lyrics.”

Noted actor-director Ananth Mahadevan says, “The title does challenge you; but, frankly, why would we bother with it?”

Businessman Vijay Talreja doesn’t mince his words, “I go to see films for entertainment, not to strain my brain. Since the title itself was difficult, I gave the film a miss.”

For the record, the title was Teri Baaton Mein Aisa Uljha Jiya.

William Shakespeare may have shrugged off the importance of a title by pointing out that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. A famous Hindi song may emphasise the evanescence of existence by reminding us that Naam ghum jayega. But for a Hindi film, its title is sacrosanct, its very identity. The title Sholay encapsulates the film; it corrals Thakur, Gabbar, Jai, Veeru, Basanti, and Samba into one cogent whole, into one name that still fires the imagination.

There’s no denying that tongue-twisting titles have worked for Hindi films in the past — Raj Kapoor’s Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai was a huge hit 64 years ago — and they have clicked recently too as evidenced by Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. On the other hand, Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag came a cropper and Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja drew a blank in 1961 as well as in 1993. So is there any pattern here? Do long titles attract or do they distract?

Basing it on his long years of experience, Adarsh observes, “A long title can be a boon as well as a bane.” He elucidates, “The recall value of Rajshri’s Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye (1977) is tremendous even today because, though long, the title was easy to remember and it resonated with the theme of the film. It beautifully conveyed that the film’s content was about a dulhan (Rameshwari) who will win the hearts of her partner and his family. Similarly, Hum Saath Saath Hain was clearly all about family while Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje was obviously about dance. On the other hand, the title of the new Shahid-Kriti film was a bit confusing for me. Though the film is doing moderately okay, its title does not convey the gist of the story... which is very important.”

Echoing Taran’s statement, Ananth Mahadevan avers, “We’ve had long titles like Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai or Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro all of which were statements, strong and reflective of the subject.” He points out that though titles like Killers of the Flower Moon or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance may not convey the theme of the film, they are intriguing. However, he rues, “Here (in Mumbai), television has a weird habit of randomly selecting popular song lyrics hoping the refrain will hook an audience. It is a ridiculous norm."

The probability of a verbose film title being remembered increases tenfold in Hindi cinema if the titular song is a hit. The popular theme songs from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin, and Main Tulsi Tere Angan Ki helped immensely in making their long titles palatable.

Also helpful for today’s era of short attention spans are pithy acronyms like DDLJ for Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and HAHK for Hum Aapke Hain Koun?. But they don’t always catch on. Kajal cheekily quips, “TBMAUJ may be deciphered by some people as Tere Bina Mera Aisa Ujhada Jeevan.”

Bhave scoffs, “Imagine, if in Hollywood One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest had the acronym, OFOTCN.” He emphasises that it’s the star cast and director which matter, however long the title may be. He posits, “Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai were hits.”

While it’s easy to go polysyllabic, it’s not impossible to come up with a blockbuster title using just two letters. Case in point: E.T.

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