Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge still runs successfully at Maratha Mandir today. What runs along with it in the film industry, are all the DDLJ clichés that the film gave birth to, in 1995. The train sequence, lovers running and uniting in the fields and the girl’s furious father letting go of his daughter in the climax – all these scenes became historic and, in turn, the formula for all commercial entertainers.
An unnoticed trend or formula that Aditya Chopra’s film injected into the veins of the industry was that of dedicating the title of the film to the name of a famous song. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was the name of a song from Yash Raj Films’ 1974 movie Chor Machaye Shor starring Mumtaz and Shashi Kapoor.
Chopra, who was just four years old at the time of the release of the film, is likely to have imbibed the dialogues, scenes and songs of his legendary father Yash Chopra’s films. Thus, while selecting a title of his directorial debut, he chose one of the famous songs that he grew up listening to. The title fit into the context of the film aptly as well.
What followed was a trend of naming films after famous songs as a formula, on the director’s part, to replicate DDLJ’s momentous success. One of the first attempts at executing the formula was in the 1998 Sohail Khan directorial Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya starring Salman Khan and Kajol.
The film could have been named anything else but Khan chose to bank on the popularity of the legendary song from K Asif’s 1960 historical drama Mughal-e-Aazam. The film emerged successful and the trend of naming films after famous songs continued.
While intertextuality was not a new phenomenon in Hindi cinema, these allusions to popular songs gained traction as a mere market trend. There were several instances when the title of the film had little to do with the story but was used nonetheless as the song it was named after had immense recall value among its target group.
For example, Samir Karnik’s 2011 comedy Yamla Pagla Deewana was named so to attract the fans of Dharmendra to cinema halls. The film was nothing more than an ode to the revered actor and the fact that he was sharing the screen space with his sons Sunny and Bobby Deol for the first time. The right packaging, in which the title played a crucial role, ensured the film was a huge success at the box office, though it was panned by the film critics.
Similarly, after Ranbir Kapoor had a flawed launch vehicle in Saawariya, Yash Raj Films decided to capitalise on their own formula when they re-launched Kapoor through the film Bachna Ae Haseeno, named after his father Rishi Kapoor’s iconic song from the 1977 action film Hum Kisi Se Kum Naheen. The film worked and launched the fourth generation star in the process. Incidentally, another film of Ranbir, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was named after the title song of his uncle Randhir Kapoor’s 1972 film Jawani Diwani. The titles of the two films were in tune with Ranbir’s characters but at the same time, they indicated the fact that Ranbir is carrying forward his family legacy.
There were a few films which took their titles from popular songs but presented it in an entirely new light. The most recent example is Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The title is inspired from Johnny Walker’s historic song from the 1956 film CID. Though the context of that song was the trials that one faces while making his ends meet in Mumbai, Johar’s version turned into an anthem for unrequited lovers.
Another good example is Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, which was a complete detour from Rishi Kapoor’s song from the 1980 thriller Karz. Though both the films were based on the theme of reincarnation, the title had little to do with the coincidence. It alluded to the characters of the film, Shantipriya and the two incarnations of Om.
Another interesting example is Rakesh Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya. The title referred to a dance number in Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Since the song was a children’s favourite, Roshan decided to name the film after the song to please his target group. However, the rationale behind the title was not superficial as unlike the song it was named after, the ‘koi’ in the song did not refer to first love but to an extra-terrestrial creature.
Roshan’s 2003 fantasy film came just six years after Johar’s film so the song had good recall value by then. Similarly, films like Guzaarish and Jai Ho also followed the same path as they banked on the popularity of recent hit songs from Ghajini and Slumdog Millionaire. Though Sanjay Leela Bhansali added depth to the title of Guzaarish by addressing the issue of euthanasia, Sohail Khan changed the name of his film from Mental to Jai Ho after AR Rahman won an Academy Award for composing the renowned song sung by Sukhwinder Singh.
As the trend continues with upcoming films like Meri Pyari Bindu and Raabta, we are yet to see whether these films hold any titular relevance or are merely spin offs of popular songs with good recall value.