Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NOM DU FILM - or film names.

Music maestro Ilayaraja , probably struggling for a suitable name in sheer desperation called his classic album –“ How to name it ?”

I wonder how to name a name ? It is not a nickname and yet it is not the person’s given name…. It is not a surname or a middle name or even a first name. It is a combination of all of these. You take a person’s name ( or part thereof) and add another name , a kind of nickname in front of it and lo behold you get a totally different name. Villupuram Chinnaiah Mandrayar Ganesha Murthy becomes Sivaji Ganesan. This new avatar becomes legend  in the world of Tamil films. It is this new name that I choose to call “Nom du film” or simply put – A film name. This phenomenon is fairly unique to the Tamil Film Industry , at least more prevalent. We can find similar names in the world of American sports -  Tiger Woods , Magic Johnson to name a few. The old Chicago gangster world too had its fair share – Scarface Capone , Bugsy Malone and so on.

These added “Names” can be divided into various categories based on -

Some Attribute – usually Physical  like “Gundu” was added to both a Karuppaiah and a Kalyanam , Semia Mani , Kulla Mani, Omakuchi Narasimhan. Smitha , had skin as smooth as silk and became “Silk Smitha” – that is why her character in the film “Vandichakkram” was called “Silk”. Some refer to the actor’s ability. Mani , a comic on stage had the ability to repartee and thus was christened “Counter” Mani - The man who could give a counter dialogue. This over time and mispronouncing became Gounder a more familiar word to the public and thus was born Gounda Mani , who together with Senthil ruled Tamil Cinema for a long time. “Kutty” Padmini , remained so even when she grew up. Since there were quite a few Subbiah’s we have a “Vellai” Subbiah as opposed to a Karuppu Subbiah or the more famous S.V.Subbiah. “Sandow” Chinnappa Thevar – as is obvious was a wrestler but “Payilvan” Ranganathan was not – but looked like a wrestler. One of Tamil’s earliest action hero was “Battling” Mani – a leading action Star like the Hindi lady counterpart “Fearless” Nadia.”Pulimoottai” or a sack of Tamarind was what they thought Ramaswamy looked like and became Pulimoottai Ramaswamy. “Yadhartham” Ponnuswamy was given that name for his “natural” acting.

A film that made them famous – We have the brothers Raja and Ravi , Director and hero of the film “Jeyam” respectively adding the films name to their name thus making them Jeyam Raja and Jeyam Ravi. Nizhalgal Ravi being a different person. The film Vennira Adai was added to Murthy the Comedian and Nirmala one of the female leads. The film “Pasi”to both Narayanan and Ms. Sathya . “Nizhalgal” Ravie ,“Poovilangu” Mohan , “Thalaivasal Vijay” , “Sangili” Murugan all derive their name from the film that made them popular. The film CID Shankar gave us CID Shakunthala. Kuladeivam Rajagopal is another example.

The Telugu film “Shahukaar launched a young girl Janaki and thus became “Sowcar” Janaki. Another Telugu film “Sakshi” was added to Ranga Rao , to differentiate him from S.V.Ranga Rao , his son Siva , a popular TV Star has added it to his name , a rare case of 2nd generation “Nom du film”. The only other case being “Isari” Velan and his son Ganesh. “Isari” being how a dialogue spoken “Adhu Seri” sounded. Which drings us to the next category.

From Dialogues or Phrases that they said -
“Ennatha”Kanniah,“Danaal”Thangavelu,”Kaakka” Radhakrishnan, “Ayyatheriyaadhayya” Rama Rao , “Pakodah” Khadar,  “Aleik” Nirmala , who later dropped “Aleik” and became just Vijayanirmala – The Guiness record holder for the Lady Director with the maximum number of films in the World , are some. “Fatafat” Jayalakshmi and “Achchacho” Chithra are some others. The Hindu is responsible for one such name – a young comedian , playing a film producer called Dhandapani repeated the lines “Thai ( the month) porandhaal picture start”… The character in the play was called Thai Dhandapani – The Hindu gave him a rave review and the month of Thai when re written in Tamil was written as Thaai or mother and thus was born “Thaai” Nagesh.

The place they came from – We have the most famous of them all “Gemini” Ganesh , who took the name of the Studio that he came from. AVM Rajan too added the Studio name , but as his Initials. Some like the famous Stage actor Visvanathan added the City he lived in – Calcutta. Delhi Ganesh was christened so by his mentor K.Balachander to distinguish him from Sivaji , Gemini and Jai , all other Ganeshs. TV has another from Delhi , Delhi Kumar. Balachander’s cpmpany gave birth to “Kavithalaya” Krishnan. We are not considering names like “Sirkaazhi” Govindarajan , ‘Trichy” Loganathan or “Chidambaram” Jayaraman all of whom took their Native Town as part of their Initials.

Ganesan as Sivaji
C.N.Annadorai as Kaagabhattar - the Guru.

Characters that they immortalized – “Major Sundarrajan played Major Chandrakanth in both the Play and the film by K.Balachander. “Nawab” Rajamanickam , “Typist” Gopu , “Thengai” Srinivasan, “Kaththadi” Ramamurthy , Inspector Javert of Les Miserables when played in Tamil by Seetharaman became Jhaver Seetharaman. For playing lady characters like “Avvai” and “Kaali” (the godess) both T.K.Shanmugam and Rathinam were given these “Titles”. Even the Road is called Avvai Shanmugam Salai today. For his role as the Title Character “ Captain Prabhakar” Vijaykanth is known as Captain Vijaykanth and the other popular hero Vikram – “Chiyaan” Vikram from the character he played in the National award winning “Sethu”. The most famous of them all being “Sivaji” Ganesan from the title role in a play by C.N.Annadorai. Periyar saw his performance and christened him Sivaji Ganesan.

 (Late) Vikram Dharma

The Work done - Some like Judo Rathinam , Stunt Somu , Gana Ulaganathan , Joker Ramudu , Clown Sindaram , Bufoon Shankara Iyer are indicative of their field of acticity. Various action choreographer have  adopted such names – Rambo Rajkumar , Super Subbarayan , Stunt Siva , Jaquar Thangam to name a few. In case you wonder why Jaguar is spelt that way it is another Thaai Nagesh case – Jaguar when written in Tamil is written with a ‘q’ as there is no equivalent sounding alphabet. The late Dharma became “Vikram” Dharma after his work in the Kamalhaasan starrer - Vikram.

“Crazy” Mohan got his name from his play “Crazy Thieves of Palavakkam” – this was a name given to him by the then editor of Ananda Vikatan , The other Mohan was “Loose” Mohan who specialized in Madras Baashai (slang). The hero Mohan was fondly called “Mike” Mohan as he belted out hit songs one after the other , sung mostly by SPB , always holding a Mike on stage. I am grateful that I have been spared a tag – remaining plain.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all Tamil “Nom du Film”. As the Bard of Avon  said in Romeo and Juliet – “What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet “.


anantha said...

Lovely compilation.

R.V.RAJU said...

'Loose' Mohan got the title from his father 'Loose' Arumugam, who became fanous after playin as a prominant 'loose'among the mental patients in 'Manam Pola Mangalyam', where Gemini Ganesh gets trapped. (The episode was adapted later by A.P. Nagarajan in Navarathri, where Savithri gets entrapped among women mental patients.) Incidentally, it was in the sets of MPM Gemini and Savithri got closer and decided to marry.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.