Friday, September 10, 2010

The Penchant for Pen Names

In the late nineties, when free email burst forth into our collective consciousness, there was a gold rush for cooler-than-thou email ids. Back then, hotmale@hotmail.com was considered lame. Everyone wanted a badass avatar. Thescoundrel@yahoo.com, haraami@coolmail.com, or kamnati@rocketmail.com invariably earned you that extra brownie from that ‘shygirl’ in that mystery chatroom. If you really analyze, it was all about appropriating an escape identity, very different from our drab selves. Pen Names played that role, in the pre-internet era.

Sadly, whenever we think of pen names, we always think of it as a Western phenomenon. Because we’ve all grown up on pseudonyms like Ayn Rand (Born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum), Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), Saki (Henry Hector Munro) and Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). If you care to ask your mom and dad, they’ll tell you, Tamil Nadu has a far richer tradition of nom de plumes.

The creator of the epic Ponniyin Selvan, could have written the novel under his real name R. Krishnamurthy. Instead he opted for Vishnu’s tenth avatar ‘Kalki’. The trick worked as the two-syllable name had the acoustics and profundity to intrigue any reader. Kalki is actually a clever coinage minted by fusing the ‘Kal’ from Kalyana Sundara Mudaliar (his mentor) and Krishnamurthy’s Tamil initial ‘Ki’.

Abdul Kalam’s classmate, screenplay writer and ace novelist S. Rangarajan wrote under his wife’s name (Sujatha). A male writing under a female name! Considering it was way before the era of gender-bender chat screennames, it was truly pioneering. An even more scintillating name was thought up by Madabushi Rangadurai when he anagrammed the phonetics of Rangadurai into the very-hip and Anglo Randor Guy.

If authors were having a field day choosing wacky pen names, can poets be far behind? C. Virudachalam dropped his boring name and picked Pudumai Pithan (meaning: Mad about the New). AL Muthiah added a touch of elegance to his persona with Kannadasan. TS Rangarajan swapped his pedestrian name for the mythical Vaali. Muhammad Metha shrunk it all and wrote pudhu kavidhai under Mu. Metha. Moral of the Story: Get your name right, before you write.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

LSD & the trip of numbers

Being a conceited writer, I used to entertain this na├»ve notion that ‘The Script’ decides the fate of a movie. Every time an awful film made it big, I used to attribute it to huge doses of good karma. But the shocking success of some dubla patla plots (Twilight, Transformers 2 and Wanted), has made me question the very foundations of my craft. So, does the bound book, matter at all? If it doesn’t, what is the blue print for weaving a sure-fire blockbuster? Ekta Kapoor, the Temptress of Television, seems to have cracked the code. And her password is: NUMEROLOGY.

Yes my disbelieving pal, the answer lies in numbers. Let’s study the Queen of Soaps for more clues. Ekta Kapoor was born on 7th of June, 1975. Her birth number (sum of the digits of her birth date) is 7 and fadic number (sum of the digits of her DOB) is 8. If one were to go purely by the merits of the never-ending story line of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, one would have dismissed it as a non-starter.

But when you apply the science of Pythagorean numerology, even pigs can fly. And that’s what Jumping Jeetu’s daughter did. She just sculpted the serial title in such a way that it tallied with her birth number 7. After tasting success with this gamble, she applied the same formula to Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii. It became a TRP magnet too! She then extended this 7-logic to movie making with Kyaa Kool Hai Hum. It became the surprise hit of 2005. Incidentally 2005 also adds up to 7!

Recently I read a news item that Ekta Kapoor has floated a new production house named ALT. And their first new feature is LSD or Love, Sex Aur Dokha. The numerologist in me did the number crunching. It didn’t add up to 7. I was puzzled. Then I applied the Chaldean Numerology Code instead of the Pythagorean one. Both ALT and Love, Sex Aur Dokha added to 8. And that happens to be our lady’s fadic number! Will 8 work as well as 7? If it does, I’ll start believing in numerology.

Monday, May 3, 2010

In the Name of Demockracy

Close your eyes. And visualize. What do you see when you think of politics? Nehru coated netajis delivering boring bhaashans, men in white minting black money, MLAs practicing the javelin by hurling microphones, schemers multiplying votes by dividing the nation, unkempt men and unkept promises, film stars and drama queens, rising sons and falling standards…wasn’t this Dismal Documentary playing in your Mindscreen when you pressed the START button? Sad, na? Don’t you think ‘We the People’ deserve better?

The rest of the world has discovered an antidote to this political ailment. If you ask me, the solution deserves a Nobel Prize for Medicine. Mota moti, the idea is to do a Jaspal Bhatti and to ridicule the jokers who rule you by creating your own ridiculous political party!

The first trend setter in this genre was the Rhinoceros Party of Canada. Instituted in 1963 by Jacques Ferron, the organization elected a rhino from one Montreal zoo as its leader citing remarkable similarities to thick-skinned, slow-moving and dim-witted politicians. Inspired by this, the McGillicuddy Serious Party came into being in New Zealand. It made a splash with the promise of free dung, good weather and full unemployment.

The limelight enjoyed by these Satirical Political Parties encouraged the birth of a whole parliament of jocularly named rag tag coalitions. The OWL Party of Washington made its debut at the hustings, in 1976, as a double acronym standing for ‘Out With Logic, On With Lunacy’. Leading the clown fest in Sweden was the Donald Duck Party with the ‘free liquor’ manifesto. The Hungarian Double-tailed Dog Party pushed the envelope further by announcing ‘eternal life, world peace, one work day per week and two sunsets a day!’ Some porn stars took the cue and floated the Love Party in Italy with the solemn oath of legalizing brothels and injecting more fun in Sex Education. But the one that really rocked was the Sun Ripened Warm Tomato Party of Australia. It polled 0.69% of the national vote, thanks to its bizarre name! Hopefully the Cho Ramaswamis of the world will take note and start their own Mock Munnetra Kazhakams.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Godmen of Small Things

There was a time when honorific prefixes and suffixes were appended to names only after a lifetime of consideration. Paramahamsa was one such lofty title. Only the enlightened metasouls who could sift the truth from the illusion were conferred this spiritual knighthood. Recently while watching Vinnaithandi Varuvaya, the cinematographer’s work caught my eye. I discovered it was by one, Manoj Paramahamsa! With all due respect to the man, I wonder how his parents bestowed him this coveted surname without going through the contortions of acquiring the black belt of Yogahood. I am almost certain the genuine gurus who slaved away all their empty lives in pursuit of such mystic honorifics, will be collectively scowling in their saintly samadhis.

But they must be used to it now. After all, they have seen so many godmen take so many liberties and bring so much disrepute to so many guru names that they would’ve stopped counting. Like our newest sensation, Paramahamsa Nithyananda (born as Rajasekaran).

Son of a farmer, the young lad did his studies in Tiruvannamalai (Ramana Maharishi’s abode) and one fine day discovered the stairway to heaven and the short cut to nirvana. That’s when he decided to switch over to the saffron garb and appropriated the aura of a sanyasi by attempting a naming technique, we call fusonyms. He just sliced the ‘ananda’ from Vivekananda, diced ‘Nithya’ from Nithya Chaitanya Yati and added a sprinkling of the reverential P-word and thus was born Paramhamsa Nithyananda. That one masterstroke changed his destiny and the rest is television history.

The ingeniousness of Rajasekaran has inspired me to create a whole new cult of Fake Godmen names. It’s royalty free. So feel free to partake of my holy prasad. Up for grabs first is Swami Twistananda, for the dancing guru. With such a name, one can give Shiamak Davar, a gambol for his money. Laptop Baba can be a brilliant way to make nubile chicks, plonk on your lap. Football Maharaj is for disciples in search of a guru who can help them kick their bad karma. I have a lot more monikers. I shall preserve them for my salvation!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Doctor Balki Syndrome

Doctor Balki is an honorable man. After giving us India’s first diabetic-friendly movie (Cheeni Kum), he followed it up with a flick on the Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. The ingenious choice of a rare disease gave the audience a reason-to-lap-up the monkey dancing antics of Auro, and more importantly, it provided Amitabh, a new medical condition to milk an award (flash back: Alzheimer’s fetched Big B, the National for Black). Inspired by Balki’s award winning template, KJo injected doses of the Asperger Syndrome into the MNIK script, to resuscitate the thespian in Star Rukh Khan. Now I hear the search is on for even more obscure diseases and syndromes for creating roles-to-die-for, for the other Khans, Kumars, Deols and Khannas. Let’s raise a toast to the gentlemen who started this trend.

To aid my fellow miserable scriptwriters, the black humorist in me, thought, it would be a nice idea to share a few ‘zara hat ke’ syndrome names that can serve as a neat fig leaf for the lack of a plot. Here’s the deluge with suitable pointers on the cast…

Leriche’s Syndrome will be ideal for a Mukesh Bhatt production starring the serial kisser Emran Hashmi. Leriche is a disease that causes impotence due to the paralysis of the Lumbar spinal nerve. Goodpasture’s Syndrome can serve as today’s Lymphosarcoma of the Intestine (Rajesh Khanna dies in ‘Anand’ because of this condition). Goodpasture results in death by renal failure and it offers immense scope for Guru Duttesque melodramas. Marfan Syndrome can fulfill Aamir’s long cherished desire to play a tall character! Because this genetic disorder is known to lead to extra long limbs and long thin fingers. Marfan can also seriously impair the eyes causing Astigmatism and Nearsightedness. These touches could enhance the glycerine quotient in the poignant climax.

Bipasha would love the Takayasu’s Syndrome as it is known to cause pulselessness. Imagine a Ram Gopal Varma horror film where the protagonist is assumed to be dead because Shiney Ahuja can’t feel the pulse! Do you sense the possibilities? So go on. Abuse the syndromes. And blame it all on Balki.

Extracted from my Nama Sutra column, featured in Indulge, the Friday lifestyle tabloid of New Indian Express.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

Alert, Nunuvut

Located in Canada on the tip of the Nunavut territory, Alert is a small village that lies on the Arctic Ocean only 500 miles below the North Pole. It is widely considered to be the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world (with a whopping five year-round residents), and also one of the most inhospitable. Interesting name.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do you know how Shemaroo got its name?

Shemaroo Entertainment was started in 1962 by the Maroo brothers (Buddhichand, Atul & Raman)in collaboration with the Shethias. SHEthias + MAROO = Shemaroo. And thus was born Shemaroo.