Thursday, August 29, 2013

Name Changers & Game Changers

Ace eye-candy Maria Sharapova proved last week that her marketing instincts are far more fetching than her sculpted legs. Her ‘Maria Sugarpova’ name-change stunt, to promote the ‘Sugarpova’ range of premium candies generated more heat than Usain Bolt’s thundering performance on the racetrack. Considering, she spent zero dollars on the PR blitz; it should easily rank as the Smashing Gimmick of the Year.

While a sweet name change helped Maria with her brand campaign, it earned Terri Illigan the much needed moolah to educate her children. Terri sold her name on eBay for $15,199. Internet casino bought it on the pre-condition that she should rename herself as Terri took the gamble and it was worth its weight in gold.

Monetary gain was again the motive for young Dan Milton to switch over to the rather clunky Facebookdotcom Forwardslash MountaindewUK. Apparently, he wanted to win the 5000-pound ‘super fan ambassador’ title from the ‘Do the dew’ drink. It is not known if his fuzzy exploits won him the fizzy jackpot.

Many others like George Garratt did it for their 3 nanoseconds of fame. By assuming the new name, ‘Captain Fantastic Faster Than Superman Spiderman Batman Wolverine Hulk And The Flash Combined’, George tried to stand out in his circle of nobodies. His superhero themed approach may have sent his stock soaring in Glastonbury, but everywhere else, he was seen as just another spooferman

Yahoo Serious, the Australian actor, was the one genuine guy who opted for a nomenclature makeover because he felt it was more intriguing than his bland birth name - Greg Pead. Even he couldn’t resist making a quick buck by suing ‘Yahoo!’ for trademark infringement. But unfortunately, Serious’ claim was not taken seriously by the courts.

At times, a quick name change is deployed to garner attention for a social cause. Karin Robertson’s transformation into ‘’ and Chris Garnett’s bold shift to ‘’ got enough mileage for PETA. May be there’s a lesson to be learnt here for activism in India. May be it’s time for some enterprising men and women to rename themselves as ‘’, ‘’, or ‘’!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Reincarnation of Sanskrit

If you were working the graveyard shift at the cemetery of languages, you’d notice that the ancient spirit of Sanskrit is doing celebratory cartwheels and back flips, these days. There’s a simple reason for it: the fossilized language is making a comeback of sorts in a totally new avatar in every nation other than India.

Surprised? I am not. Any language that has 96 words for love, 67 words for water and 15 words for gold must be a treasure trove for the true seekers of linguistic jollies, especially in the domain of branding. Which is perhaps why we are seeing a profusion of Sanskrit names for products ranging from low brow apps to high street couture.

Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana, James Cameron’s Avatar, the Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement, the Kama Sutra and the Yoga wave in the West, deserve equal credit for spreading the word about the possibilities of owning a profoundly meaningful and yet, distinctively different sound.

When Erica Falconeri, a big league international model, wanted to launch her own line of designer scarves, she chose ‘Ananda’ (bliss) as her moniker. When Beaver and Pam Theodosakis were fishing for an appropriate name for their yoga and climbing apparel, they hit upon ‘PrAna’ (life). Fashion designer Isse Miyake’s protégé Makiko Minagawa’s case is different. She wanted a rustic ‘global village’ kind of name for her rather diverse collection from here and there. She picked ‘Haat’ not just because it meant ‘village market’ but because it sounded like both ‘heart’ and ‘haath’ (Hindi for ‘hand’ - cueing handmade)!

Australian skin care company ‘Sodashi’ is about chemical-free products. So they picked a Sanskrit root word that stood for ‘Wholeness, purity and radiance’ and thus arrived at Sodashi. Aveda (all knowledge) is another natural cosmetic giant with an Indic origin.

Even techie companies haven’t been able to resist the charms of the Vedic language. For every ultrabook named ‘Lenovo Yoga’, there’s a web based app called ‘Asana’. For every telecom giant named ‘Avaya’ (perceptual judgment), there’s a big data player named Tumra (big). Sadly, back home in India, we’ve relegated Sanskrit to the status of a holy leper and have done everything in our powers to give her an undignified burial.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

On the Rahul Raj

As ‘Chennai Express’ shocks us all by zipping past the 100-crore barrier, I just learnt two things: a) You can do the lungi dance without wearing a lungi; and b) You can turn any dud into a blockbuster if you persuade SRK into playing the dimple-cheeked ‘Rahul’ all over again.

Such is the magic of the name. The previous two times, Shahrukh, donned the role of ‘Rahul’, he set the Ganga, Yamuna and Sutlej on fire by raking in 16.6 crores with Yes Boss and 42.3 crores with Dil Toh Pagal Hai. In today’s terms, that’s a whopping 250 crores of rokda. Now you know why stars fall over each other to appropriate the lucky name.

As per my estimates, there have been at least 22 Bollywood films in the last 23 years with Rahul as the lead protagonist. Everyone from Aamir, Salman, Saif, Hrithik, Sanjay, Abhishek to that chocolate boy Imran, they’ve all found some lame excuse to embrace it.

You’d be surprised to know that the actor who started the Rahulmania was none other than Rahul Roy. He kicked the box office butt as ‘Rahul Roy’ in the musical hit Aashiqui, way back in 1990.

Another character name that gives Rahul a run for his money is ‘Raj Malhotra’. 11 heroes have carried that business card in an assortment of flicks. While King Khan may have immortalised it in DDLJ, the credit for squatting on that franchise goes to Akshay Kumar. He’s played the Raj Malhotra card, an incredible 5 times. I think the Khiladiyon Ke Khiladi opted to repeat the suave Punjabi Raj act again and again as his real name is Rajiv Bhatia – Raj for short!

Surprisingly, no film before the nineties ever featured a hero named Rahul or Raj Malhotra. Even a Raj Kapoor preferred the Mononym ‘Raj’ or ‘Raju’ to a Raj Malhotra. ‘Vijay’ was the rage in the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties. Dev Anand was the first ever ‘Vijay’ on screen. Then came, Dilip Kumar. And then Guru Dutt in Pyaasa. Amitabh appropriated the ‘Angry Young Vijay’ a record 22 times. Jeetendra followed suit 17 times. Lesson: Rahul aur Raj nahi toh Vijay hi sahi.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Spello of Good Luck

In a nation where vegetable buffs are peddled on every street, mango sheikhs are served in cool bars, gopi manchurian is passed off as an uppetizer, green peace pulao is given the pride of place and everyone is happy munching on snakes and guzzling child beer, it is quite natural to blame the daily abuse of the English language on poverty and semi-literacy. I’d like to add one more culprit to the list of accused: Numerology.

Yes, the science of numbers deserves to be hauled up for converting us into a country of dyslexics. More specifically, the quack numerologists, who recommend committing typos in the name of good fortune, need to be subjected to a Spanish Inquisition of sorts.

Wondering why? Let’s examine the slippery premise of the snake oil salesmen parading as numerologists. They claim a ‘Singh Is King’ will be unsuccessful but a ‘Singh Is Kinng’ will be a blockbuster. ‘Hey Baby’ will be a flop, while ‘Heyy Babyy’ will be a moolah-raker. The apparent logic being, by adding an ‘N’ here and a ‘Y’ there, we are changing the planets that could influence the destiny of the name!

If we could just trick the evil planets into vamoosing from our lives by using the mere device of a few letters, then why on earth cannot we pull Ethiopia out of poverty by renaming it as ‘Ethiopiaaaaaah’? If numerologists knew the secret sauce to concoct billionaires, then why haven’t they tried it themselves?

The Dinesh Karthik case study is enough to silence the charlatans, once for all. Poor chap, when he began his cricketing career he was KKD Karthik. Someone whispered into his ear that if he wants greater glory he must become KD Karthik. Unfortunately nothing happened, so he chose Dinesh Karthik. Many years of struggle ensued forcing him to consider Dinesh Karthick. And then, Dinesh Kaarthick. Still Lady Luck eluded him. Frustrated, our man switched back to Dinesh Karthik. Six name changes later, DK is now a rock star. Hopefully the Ajay Devgns, Suniel Shettys, Kirron Khers, Tamannaahs, Shobhaa Des, Irrfans and other spell check defying names are listening.