One would think that a name would play an important part in a character’s recall with the audience, but not always as there have been famous actors in leading roles whose characters had no screen name at all in the film!
Even Amitabh Bachchan! In Main Azaad Hoon (1989), he is only referred to as Azaad. As a hungry, homeless vagabond, he is seen busy stuffing food into his mouth when a journalist asks him what his name is. His mouth is so full he can’t answer her and she reassures him with “It’s alright. It doesn’t matter. From today your name is Azaad”. And Azaad he remains for the rest of the film and no one knows his real name.
Inspired by the Westerns of yore, Khotay Sikkay (1974) has the mysterious man in a black cape on a horse played by none other than Feroze Khan. No one knows where he comes from or where he goes and no one knows his name either. An air of mystery shrouded the lone horse-rider in a black cape. Perhaps that was why Director Narendra Bedi decided that, in keeping with the mysterious aura, Feroze Khan should not have any screen name in the film.
- Kishore Kumar’s name in the 1968 comedy superhit Padosan? Kishore Kumar is addressed as ‘Guru’ in the film. His actual name, that was mentioned only in passing was Vidyapati.
- What was Vidya Balan’s name in Kahaani (2012)? If she was not ‘Vidya’, who was she? This hearkens back to The Day of the Jackal (1973) in which the police wonder, “If the Jackal wasn’t Charles Calthrop, who was he?”
- Rajesh Khanna says his name is Raghunandan in Bawarchi (1972) but almost at the end one learns his real name is Prabhakar
Sometimes it may be the script that deliberately gives no name to a character. Rohini Hattangadi who plays the domestic help of Shabana Azmi in Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth (1982) is simply referred to as ‘Bai’. Rohini says she can’t really remember why her character had no name! In the film both Rohini and Shabana play women who are dealing with marital discord.
Commissioner of Police Prakash Rathod (Anupam Kher) does not disclose the name of the vigilante ‘common man’ (played by Naseeruddin Shah) in Neeraj Pandey’s A Wednesday! (2008). “A name gives away a man’s religion,” is the reason why, he says.
Sometimes, names are changed or removed because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter and it is no different in films made based on real life. Sanjay Gurbaxani in Madras Café (2013) is referred to as ‘ex-PM’, as the film was a thinly-veiled account of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination by the LTTE in 1991.
One wonders what Ram Gopal Verma was thinking of when he refused to name the serial killers in both his suspense films, Kaun (1999) that he directed and Darna Mana Hai (2003), which he produced. Urmila Matondkar who is a serial killer in Kaun is only referred to as Ma’am while Sushant Singh who plays the killer in Darna Mana Hai goes by no name at all!
In a film that Basu Chatterjee adapted from 12 Angry Men , none of the men has a name. The movie? Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1985).