Home Columns Anantha Narayan Namasutra: Saying it with a letter

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    The first time I read about U Thant was in my history class. What fascinated me about him was not his Burmese origin or the fact that he happened to be the third Secretary General of the United Nations. The most intriguing aspect about the man was clearly his quirky first name.

    When I probed deeper, I discovered he had three brothers: U Khant, U Thaung and U Tin Maung. U must be kidding me, I thought to myself. But then I calmed down when I discovered that U was no initial or name. It was just the Burmese equivalent of ‘Mister’!
    Despite my obvious disappointment, my quest for one-letter names continued. Every time I read newspapers, watched films or browsed like hell, I was always on the lookout for this rare breed. I was totally chuffed when I uncovered the Korean surname ‘O’. Apparently seven lakh people in the world carry it on their passport.

    A Bengali director who goes by the mystery moniker ‘Q’, recently caught my eye. My interest in him waned when I found out that it was his way of drawing attention to his rather contrived name which is Qaushiq Mukherjee.Just when I had given up hope, some severely pithy movie titles saved the day. Robot director Shankar is currently shooting I, a film starring Vikram. I has inspired newbie Ashik into launching Vu (pronounced as ‘oo’ – the Tamil letter used as a surrogate Ganesha squiggle when you put pen to paper). But before these blokes, we had SP Jananathan’s E – the Jeeva starrer about a character named Easwaran.

    In Bollywood, we’ve had two such instances so far: D, the Ram Gopal Varma release about Dawood Ibrahim and the soon-to-be premiered X – an experimental flick about the ten ex-girlfriends of the protagonist.The earliest gentleman to realise the potential of the one-letter name was Fritz Lang. He had originally titled his 1931 film as The Murderers Are Among Us. He had a hunch that if he shortened it to M, the movie would fare better. It did. His gut feel led to a rash of films with titles ranging from A to Z. Since there are just 26 possibilities, there’s still scope for 24 new blockbusters from Bollywood!

    Anantha Narayan
    Wanna share any one-letter names you know? Do write to anantha@albertdali.com. 

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