“Sentiments” is more than just another 10-letter-word when it comes to the titles of Hindi films. There’s enough apprehension and power attached to the word to get the title of a multi-crore film changed at the snap of a finger. On Thursday, 30 October, the makers of the upcoming Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmmi Bomb announced that they had decided to rename their film as Laxmii “keeping in mind and respecting the sentiments of its viewers” after a meeting with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
This isn’t the first time that a film has been pushed into a corner and made to change its title because, well... “sentiments”. Here’s a quick look at some popular films that had to release with a changed title:
Kalyug Aur Ramayan
Released in 1987, Kalyug aur Ramayan was originally titled Kalyug ki Ramayan. This Manoj Kumar-starrer was a satire on contemporary times in which the actor comes to earth as Hanuman and solves problems in a family named after characters from the Ramayana. It wasn’t just the title that the right-wing groups protested against. Protestors burnt cassettes of the film for having a song with the lyrics ‘Kalyug ki Sita...’, the song was later changed to ‘Kalyug ki Kanya’. The CBFC changed the name of the film from Kalyug Ki Ramayan to Kalyug aur Ramayan.
Singh Saab the Great
Released in 2013, Sunny Deol-starrer Singh Sahib the Great ran into trouble before it hit screens as the Akal Takht protested against the title as they believed it violated the Sikh traditions. The Akal Takht said that ‘Sahib’ could only be used for the Jathedar’s of five Sikh Takhts and for the members of the Sikh clergy who hold important posts in historical gurudwaras. The producers adhered to the Takht’s wishes and changed the title to Singh Saab the Great. Simple.
Irrfan Khan and Shah Rukh Khan’s 2009 film, which was publicised as Billu Barber had to release with the word Barber snipped off. The Association of Hair Stylists were reportedly unhappy with the use of the term ‘barber’ in the film’s title. The association was okay to either have the film renamed as Billu Hairdresser or just Billu. The producers of the film (SRK himself) decided to go with just Billu and The Hairdressers' Association of Mumbai got an invitation to the film’s premiere as well.
Total Siyapaa vs Aman ki Asha - which sounds better? This Ali Zafar and Yami Gautam romantic comedy was originally titled Aman ki Asha - a natural choice since their characters are named Aman (a Pakistani) and Asha (an Indian) respectively in the film. However the makers of the film had to choose an alternate name for their film because the copyright over the term Aman ki Asha is held by two publications who had started and popularised the term as a social initiative to promote friendly relations between India and Pakistan. So, eventually Aman ki Asha became Total Siyapaa by the time of its release in 2014.
Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Café was initially titled Jaffna. The film, featuring John Abraham in the lead, revolves around an Indian intelligence agent who visits Sri Lanka on a secret mission and finds himself embroiled in a civil war and a conspiracy to kill the former Prime Minister of India. Jaffna was eventually renamed Madras Café and the film courted controversy even after its release in 2013 and was banned in the state of Tamil Nadu.
What could have been the problem with a film titled Rambo Rajkumar? That’s probably the thought that the makers of the film went with while getting into production. However, the producers of Sylvester Stallone’s iconic franchise weren’t very happy with Shahid Kapoor-starrer spinning off on their popular brand name. The makers of the Hollywood Rambo, got the makers of Rambo Rajkumar to not only change their title to R...Rajkumar but also to change the hero Shahid’s name in the film when it released in 2013.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, originally titled Padmavati, hit several roadblocks before its release in the first half of 2018. Though the Karni Sena protested against everything from the film’s content to its costumes to the title, they were unsuccessful in demanding a total ban on the release of the film. Padmavati eventually released as Padmaavat - the title of the poem written by the 16th century Malik Muhammad Jayasi. Padmavati was too close to the name of the queen, and the Karni Sena’s sentiments were assuaged.
Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela
Padmaavat wasn’t the first Sanjay Leela Bhansali film which saw a change in its title because of a controversy. The filmmaker’s 2013 film RamLeela ran into rough weather before its release after several Hindi groups protested against the title of the film. Their demand was that the film’s title be changed since it did not have anything to do with the actual Ramleela - the enactment of the life of lord Ram. After a Delhi court stayed the release of the film, the makers changed the title of the period romantic drama to Goliyon Ki Raasleela Raam-Leela, which are the names of the film’s lead actors, Ranveer Singh (Ram) and Deepika Padukone (Leela).
Sentiments were hurt again when Salman Khan launched his brother-in-law Aayush Sharma in a film titled LoveRatri in 2018. An advocate took the filmmakers to court alleging that the title of the film was meant to trivialise the festival of Navratri, especially since the film’s October release was scheduled during Navratri. Following the controversy, Salman announced that the film would be called LoveYatri. Genius.