Womaniya to Saand Ki Aankh: Sparring over a film's title isn't a new phenomenon in Bollywood

Gautam Chintamani

Feb 11, 2019 14:52:37 IST

Think Roti, Khalynayak, Baazigar, Lagaan to name just a few and you would get an idea of the level of reverence titles have in the pantheon of popular Hindi cinema.

In fact, dialogues are specifically written to make a deep obeisance to the titles and if luck shines, they end up becoming a part of popular culture. In the light of such deferential love, it makes sense why Anurag Kashyap found Pritish Nandy’s decision to not part with the title Womaniya for his upcoming film featuring Bhumi Pednekar and Taapsee Pannu to be particularly upsetting. Kashyap had wanted to reprise the memories of the song ‘O Womaniya’ (lyrics- Varun Grover) from his film Gangs of Wasseypur  for his project on the world’s oldest sharpshooters — Chandro Tomar and her sister-in-law Prakashi Tomar — but couldn’t use the title Womaniya as it was apparently registered under Pritish Nandy Communications Ltd.

Anurag Kashyap's film Womaniya — starring Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar — had to be remade Saand Ki Aankh following a title dispute. Image from Twitter.

To cut a long story short, Nandy reportedly asked for 1 crore to release the title and Kashyap, refusing to be extorted, tweeted Nandy could “sit on the title and warm it and hope for it to hatch into something worthwhile for his company for once”.

This is not the first time that someone has refused a title or asked for money on it. Much like the early days of the dotcom boom and domain squatting — buying a domain with the basic goal of being able to prevent others from buying it or to profit from it through advertising or resale — title squatting is a common thing in Bombay films. A few years ago when Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black released, the opening credits acknowledged the filmmaker being grateful to Kumar Gaurav. The actor’s company had registered the title ‘Black’ and had given it up for the Amitabh Bachchan-Rani Mukherji starrer.

Ever wondered why Kamal Haasan’s Tamil blockbuster Indian (1996) was titled Hindustani (1996) in Hindi? It was Sunny Deol who owned the rights to the title ‘Indian’ and told Haasan that he was keen on making a film for which ‘Indian’ was apt and couldn’t release the rights.

Such is the obsession in Bombay cinema for the correct title that at times people end up doling out huge sums. For example, Kaizad Gustad, who apparently refused to budge till producer Ayesha Shroff procured the rights to use Boom as the title for the film which featured Bachchan, Jackie Shroff, Javed Jaffrey, Gulshan Grover, Katrina Kaif and Padma Lakshmi. There’s industry folklore that Gustad could have probably saved the production nearly a crore if only he called his film ‘Boom Shankar’, which was also the name of the character Jaffrey played in the film.

Sometimes the registered title becomes the stuff of legends as opposed to the film that never got made; like in the case with Vishal Bhardwaj and ‘Barf’ (not ‘barf’ as in vomit but ‘barf’ as in ice in Hindi). In the mid-2000s, for nearly a decade, anytime someone pitched a story set in a location where there would be a lot of ice with ‘Barf’ as the tentative title, prospective producers would not waste a moment to say the title was registered with Vishal Bhardwaj.

The Nandy-Kashyap spat brings to mind some famous instances where the fight for a name or identity becomes the bigger news. Among the most famous cases is Mark Elsis, who made a practice of purchasing celebrity domain names and later offered to return them for free if the celebrities used their popularity to further the cause of saving the environment. In 2015, a former Google employee, Sanmay Ved, owned Google.com for a minute. He bought the domain rights for a mere $12 when he found that ‘google.com’ was available for purchase. Later he got $6006.13 from Google but when internet giant got to know that Ved had donated the entire amount to the Art Of Living, they doubled his reward.

Kashyap might be better off by moving on and not giving into Nandy’s demands but one can’t really say much about the new title Saand Ki Aankh and how it will help the film's cause.

Updated Date: Feb 11, 2019 15:01:45 IST