New films with old titles, similar sounding titles or remakes in the same language with the same titles. Will it not confuse cine buffs?

I recall the conversation I had with director Suseenthiran during the making of Naan Mahaan Alla. Using names of films that made a mark long ago seems to show a dearth of ideas, I told him. “Not at all, you watch the film and you’ll realise the relevance of the title,” he said. But not when Rajnikanth’s NMA of 1984 still remains unforgettable, I wished to interrupt. The issue has another side to it. Naming a new film after a hit from the past and ending up with routine fare could make the old product lose at least a little of its value. Umpteen examples can be quoted. Of course, there are also cases of a film bolstered with a strong story and sensible screenplay living up to the borrowed name — Polladhavan immediately conjures up the image of a young Rajnikanth, with a rough exterior and a kind heart, but the second Polladhavan had an engaging line and a commendable portrayal by Dhanush.

Classics re-released

The cineaste can only think of Sivaji Ganesan’s inimitable classic when Uththama Puthiran is mentioned. He may have forgotten the very first UP of 1940 that had P.U. Chinnappa as the hero, but not Ganesan’s. So when the title was replicated for the third time, the first thought was, why touch something that’s almost sacrosanct to him. Similarly, Ninaithaalae Inikkum can only bring to mind the memorable treat provided by K. Balachander with Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth in the lead. Not the remake of the Malayalam film, Classmates, which met with an average response. And now there are good tidings for fans of Kamal and Rajni. Classics of yore that have been in the cans are being dusted (read digitised) so that the original freshness is restored, and re-released with renewed vigour, post the success of Karnan that was re-formatted to look almost as good as new. Ninaithaalae Inikkum, the 1979 money spinner that was shot in Singapore for the most part, is to re-appear on screens in a new, digitised version.

The film buff’s passion for worthy reels of the past makes him see mere borrowing of titles as unfair moves. So he’s relieved when the new Thiruvilaiyaadal is forced to have an add-on — Aarambam — after a hue and cry from Sivaji Ganesan fans. (The film was a landmark in the thespian’s career.) More recently, Deiva Magan (again the earlier film’s hero was Ganesan) had to be changed to Deiva Thirumagal, albeit for a different reason. Now, Naan, the Jayalalitha-Ravichandran starrer and a runaway success of the 1960s will soon have a namesake in the form of Vijay Antony’s Naan.

While on the subject, welcome to a season of similar sounding titles. Just about a fortnight ago, you had a release called Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathilae, and soon you will get to watch Pon Maalai Pozhudhu. You had a hit called Gautam Menon’s Vaettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, and a Vaettaiyaadu is in the making! The innumerable films with ‘Kaadhal’ in the names can befuddle you — Kaadhal, Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai, Kaadhalukku Maranamillai… And in the offing are Aadhalal Kaadhal Seiveer and Kaadhalae Ennai Kaadhali! The other day when Imman told me that he was scoring music for Saattai, “I know. That’s the remake of Delhi Belly,” I enthusiastically pitched in. “I think that’s Saettai. This is Saattai,” he politely pointed out! Thaandavam is on the way, Ananda Thaandavam was released three years ago and Rudra Thaandavam 34 years ago!

A different ballgame

Remakes in the same language with the same titles are a different ballgame altogether. After Naan Avan Illai and Billa, news of remakes of K. Balachander’s inimitable Manmadha Leelai and Thillu Mullu, is trickling in. But again the trend seems to reveal paucity of plots. That probably explains why a fresh sequel or prequel of films isn’t able to sustain viewer interest — neither Naan Avan Illai 2 nor Billa 2 was found to be as riveting.

Some time ago, composer G.V. Prakash is supposed to have said that borrowing a tune and remixing it are an injustice to the original composer. The contention should also hold good for borrowed titles. Legally it may not be binding, but ethically it should!

Now, when one names his film Biriyani, another decides to call his, Pizza! And for all you know, these titles could find borrowers a few years from now!