Plenty it seems, given the preponderance of English titles for Malayalam films

Recently a joyous air reigned in Malayalam literary circles as the language’s bid for classical status won approval from the Union Cabinet. The language’s antiquity was duly rewarded, many averred. The linguistic stirring though has stayed away from Malayalam films as far as titles are concerned.

At the time of going to press, in 2013, more than 70 films have been released in Kerala, other parts of the Southern peninsula and Delhi and Mumbai. And strangely only 30 of these movies have Malayalam titles, the rest have sought refuge in English.

Titles such as Three Dots, Honey Bee, Red Wine and yes even English, have been bandied around. There is no rule that forbids granting of English titles to regional films and this is not a space to dabble in needless linguistic chauvinism. Earlier too, some Malayalam films had English names. For instance, there was Hello My Dear Wrong Number. Back then, however, the titles mostly fit the subject. Now it seems more a case of herd mentality at play.

Yes, English has seeped into every vernacular language but surely, there is a quaint appeal to titles that have the local flavour. For instance Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla (Natholi isn’t a small fish) has a nice ring to it. The movie that featured Kerala’s latest heartthrob Fahad Fazil, may not have struck box-office gold like his other recent release, Amen, yet the title created a sense of intrigue.

The gradual ascent of English in Malayalam films started in the 1980s and back then the language was employed in advertisement campaigns. Mammootty’s hit Nair Saab had the tagline: “Fighting with fire below freezing point is dangerous.” The concept of gun-fire in the Kashmir valley was neatly summed up in those words.

Much later, Suresh Gopi stormed the screen in his revamped Super Star avatar and delivered punchy dialogues in English, which were as powerful as his fists against the villains.

The fans whistled and a trend had started. Now with new-age directors emerging, the leaning towards English is complete. Many will argue that this is a mere reflection of the language’s all-consuming role in our lives. There are others who beg to differ like A.P. Shameer, an advocate in Calicut. “There is this new kind of films, new-generation movies. Some of the films are very good but most are copied from English films. There seems to be a lack of ideas both from script-writers and directors and that is reflected in titles too. The result is that inevitably more English names are selected. However directors, especially the seniors, like Sathyan Anthikkad mainly stick to Malayalam titles.”

May be the Kerala Government will do what its counterpart in Tamil Nadu did in the recent past and grant tax-benefits to movies with Tamil titles. Thanks to which, so you had titles ranging from the lyrical Muppozhudum Un Karpanaigal (Imagining you all the time) to the colloquial Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya (Lad, do you want to eat a laddu?).

Meanwhile it is time to say Thank You. Mind you, that is a title of a Malayalam film that might hit the theatres by the time you read this!