“Jill and Jack.”
There was a hushed silence. People in the audience looked at each other. They were used to outlandish statements by Bollywood film folks, but this one took even them, hardened film scribes, by surprise.
“Jill and Jack”, the veteran film-maker repeated, in a louder voice, to make sure everyone heard it clearly, lest another fringe group decides to save the country’s honour laid low by film folks not speaking clearly. “Yes, that is the name we have now settled on for our movie that is based on a work of fiction of a noted Indian Sufi poet of the fourteenth century, which will be released this week in theatres across the country. It has been chosen after careful thought, since works of fiction, and movies based on them, are bound to tarnish the reputation of historical figures whose veracity has not been established, and bring shame upon our rich culture of tolerance and plurality.”
The veteran film-maker had been here before. He could sense that it was all getting a bit confusing for the gathered scribes. He decided to elaborate.
“You know that ‘not on my watch’ was the verdict of four states ruled by one particular political party, who, despite clearance by the highest court of the country, banned this movie for fear of a widespread public outcry since only a handful of fringe groups had raised the outcry for banning the movie. These states were also concerned that a widespread law and order situation would have arisen. And this was despite taking the last letter, the letter ‘i’, out, and changing the name of the movie to Padmavat, from Padmavati originally.”
The gathered media persons were only too aware of the situation. They were proud participants in the democratic traditions of the country where fringe interest groups protected the country’s rich culture and traditions on behalf of a billion who did not give a second thought to them. These groups had such a great influence on the hearts and minds not only of their members, but also of the common man, that if they gave the cry for boycotting a certain movie, nobody would heed it. As such, per highest traditions of democracy and civil society, the only logical way out was to resort to threats of physical violence on behalf of all the people who did not pay heed to their cry, as it was for their own good.
“You have witnessed the agitation that gradually spread across other states, as we kept dropping letters from the name, first dropping the “t” from Padmavat to make it Padmava and then dropping even the “a” to make it Padmav. We kept dropping letters like items of clothing worn by a screen vamp while seducing the hero in a seventies Bollywood movie, and fringe groups, working for protecting the rich culture of our country since time immemorial, kept taking birth like the hundred Kauravs born to Gandhari. These name changes stoked the embers of not only cultural, but also literary fires buried deep inside the hearts of fringe groups unilaterally representing the entire nation. We were blamed for distorting and misrepresenting not only the rich culture, but also the richness of the Hindi language as no words like Padmava or Padmav existed in the language.”
Gathered media persons were riveted. They did not realise that such a logical thought process had been followed behind the naming of this movie.
“Now, we are a reasonable set of people, as you are well aware, especially when commercial interests are at stake. Taking a cue from the fringe elements claiming to represent the entire nation, we dropped one more letter and changed the name to Padma. Now, as you all know, Padma is a synonym for Lotus. It is also a popular name for females. As you all also know, Lotus is India’s national flower. And as you probably also know, Lotus is the symbol of the party currently in power at the Centre. While I consider myself to be brave in the face of adversity, suicidal is not a trait I associate with myself. Having already upset the cultural and literary fringe groups unilaterally protecting our heritage, could I afford to distance even the political establishment and the female population? Hence, without waiting for a new fringe group to take birth claiming to protect our rich culture from time immemorial, we took suo moto action and changed the name to Padm, in effect dropping the anglified “a” at the end, as many Hindi speakers call the Lotus Padm and not Padma. Like Ram and not Rama.”
You could have heard a pin drop.
“But superficial actions can only take you so far. And people cannot be fooled easily, as we realised to our anguish, especially the fringe elements who claim fiction and mythology to be the rich history of this land. Unfortunately the meaning of the word did not change from Padma to Padm. It stayed as Lotus. So we made it Pad. “Guess what? The movie Padman, which was scheduled to release on the same day as the now-rechristened Pad, took objection to the move and blocked its release. Left with no other option, the name of the movie was soon changed to Pa and soon thereafter to P. I sometimes marvel at the federal setup of the country. Did we need so many states? Every time we dropped a letter 4 new states stood up and banned the movie. This could not go on forever. Fortunately we started with 8 letters when we started dropping letters with Padmavat.“
Normally a boisterous lot, the audience of film scribes did not even have a question to ask.
“But objections kept coming. Having come so far we could not turn back at this stage. Being a fan of the musician Prince in my younger days, I found the inspiration to change the name to “”. Yes, that is correct. The movie without a name. As my idol Prince had once done by changing his name to a symbol followed by the tagline, ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’.
But it wasn’t so easy for us. What would we use as a tagline?
The movie formerly known as Padmavati?
Or, the movie formerly known as Padmavat?
Or, the movie formerly known as Padmava?
Or, the movie formerly known as Padmav?
Or, the movie formerly known as Padma?
Or, the movie formerly known as Padm?
Or, the movie formerly known as Pad?
Or, the movie formerly known as Pa?
Or, the movie formerly known as P?
We were forced to look beyond the obvious. That is when we discovered the rich world of fables and stories and myths outside India. That is when we settled on Jill and Jack. I have to say it was a tough choice. When the other names in contention are Alexander, Pocahontas, Shakespeare and Aristotle, a choice is never easy.”
The audience seemed to come to. A senior reported asked, “With the new name, will the film be able to overcome objections from these fringe groups?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. As the objections were raised on the basis of imagination of what the film might contain, without it having been viewed, it remains to be seen. I cannot say how creative the imagination of these groups might be and what they might imagine to be portrayed in the film without having seen it. But the good thing is that so far Bollywood films have remained confined to the actions of fringe groups operating within the country. It is our desire to take the culture overseas and be banned by overseas interest groups. So far no Indian movie, to the best of my knowledge, has been banned overseas, especially in a western society that upholds the rule of law and democratic traditions, like India does. With Jill and Jack, we expect the overseas market to open up and establish a global market for the banning of Bollywood movies.”
“Surely you meant the name to be Jack and Jill, and not Jill and Jack,” another scribe found his voice and asked.
The film-maker was silent for a few moments. Then he said, “I am not sure how to put it in an inoffensive way. You see, it appears that some of the western audiences are not as culturally sensitive to the erosion of their historical and cultural legacy through fictional books and movies as we are. A name like Jack and Jill might not get much attention. Hence, it was necessary to tamper with the name to ensure that the movie gets the full opportunity of being banned overseas.”
The audience stood up as one and applauded the film-maker’s farsightedness.