Thursday, June 27, 2013

Questionable Names

There are only four people who relish the prospect of asking sadistic questions. They are: the teacher, the philosopher, the quizzer and the nation-wants-to-know kind of TV anchors. Everyone else just dreads the prospect of facing the question mark.

Although it’s a much reviled piece of punctuation, the Question Mark commands and demands attention, by intriguing and intimidating the respondent. Its sheer ability to befuddle people is the single biggest reason for its deployment in creating best seller book titles and blockbuster movie titles.

When Agatha Christie hurls a ‘Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?’ at us, we are shocked out of our wits just like an ill-prepared student taking the IIT-JEE. We desperately flip the pages hoping to find the answers for three questions: Who the hell is Evans? What is it that ‘they’ want to ask? And why didn’t they ask Evans?

When Philip K Dick teases our minds with ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ we feel as inadequate as an intern on her first day of work. And a nervous query pops into our heads: can Androids really dream considering they are supposed to be machines?

Being a sci-fi novel that explores the Android-like behaviour of humans and the human-like behaviour of Androids, note how Philip manages to achieve his goal of sucking us into his world with a mere title!

Back in India, the Manoj Kumar thriller ‘Woh Kaun Thi?’ was the first ever Hindi movie to use a sawaal as the title. The air of mystery posed by the question helped the film to smash all box office records.

The Naseeruddin Shah starrer ‘Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai’ was the first flick to leverage the possibilities offered by rhetoric. The unusually long title captures the angst of the protagonist and draws the viewer into the heart of the debate that Albert Pinto has about capitalism.

‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ and ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ are some more celebrated examples in the rhetoric genre. The rather annoying song ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’ and American clothing brand ‘Guess?’ are visible demonstrations of the pulling power of question-themed names in other categories. Which brings us back to the same old query: Why did the chicken cross this road? And why aren't many more joining it?