Luck by chance: Can film titles change their fates?

Katrina Kaif in Merry Christmas, a good film with an auspicious title that failed to get box-office endorsement. Photo: Universal Communications 

Way back in 2001, I was sent by a publication to interview a famous numerologist, who had achieved fame for changing the spellings of many a film title and film celeb (in English of course). He had told me that the soon-to-be-released Aamir Khan production, Lagaan, would flop, as the title was “negative” and meant “tax”.

The film went on to have a 50-week run in Mumbai, was appreciated by everyone who mattered, had hit music, won awards and was finally nominated for the Oscars, where it failed to win amidst tough competition. However, it was over a decade later that a forthright trade analyst revealed to me (and another confirmed the fact) that Lagaan, except for in Mumbai city, had lost money. And it was such a well-made film!

So I wondered if Mr. Numerologist did have something right in the way he thought!

I thus decided to go back on a mental spree of the major hits and flops in the last decade and found the following interesting facts related to so-called auspicious and inauspicious titles.

2024: Merry Christmas had a sad, not merry fate.

2023: Bad Boy, despite being a decent film, was a washout. The Vaccine War, an excellent film on a positive subject, was a disaster. On the other hand, 12th Fail was a remarkable success, simultaneously on OTT and in movie halls!

2022: Jugjugg Jeeyo, a very positive title, lost money. So did Badhaai Do and Raksha Bandhan. But Uunchai (which meant (tall) heights) scaled accolades and was a sleeper success.

2020-2021: The lockdown years were noted for few successes. The intense Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, an above-average movie, received a lack of love (aashiqui) from the auds. The negatively-titled sports film, Panga, a film on an aspiring sportswoman, also well-made, sank.

2019: And how much of a negative tint was there to the word, War, but it emerged as the highest grosser of the year, making Aditya Chopra conceive a YRF Spy Universe. Another winner was the taut thriller, Badla, whose ‘negative’ title meant ‘revenge’. But, of course, Good Newwz worked big time as well.

2018: Thugs of Hindostan may have had a great opening because of its face value (Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif in a Yash Raj film) but soon tottered. Raid (the nearest any film title came to Lagaan!) was however a success, not so the Irrfan starrer Blackmail. And Gold did well!

2017: Like its entire franchise, Golmaal Again did well despite the “inauspicious” title. But Mubarakan was underwhelming, especially in terms of return on investment.  Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, titles related to matrimony, did well though.

2016: Lagaan producer Aamir Khan’s Dangal remains Hindi cinema’s highest grosser until Pathaan, Jawan and Animal in 2023. What a ‘riot’ (Dangal) that fact is!

2015: Welcome Back and All Is Well flunked, but Badlapur was a success and won accolades galore. And Shaandaar had no ‘shaan’ (glory) in its box-office returns.

So are all the superstition and other aspects worth it? Not really. And it finally boils down to the axiom that good films, even when they flop, are cherished and loved down the lines, while some bad films may appeal for selective reasons at release time but are soon forgotten. Business gains, accolades and awards are all unrelated to titles, if the names given to the film match their needs.

So, dear filmmakers, just make good content and leave the rest to the audience—and maybe a bit to Lady Luck as well!




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