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    Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had four sons: Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas and Devdas. One of them turned out to be a rebellious drunk and was disowned by the Mahatma. Which one? If Devdas was your answer, in all probability, you were heavily influenced by the Dilip Kumar/SRK classic about a drunken loser who gets sloshed to forget his true love. Thata��s what well-etched characters do to you. They grab precious real estate in your mind by becoming indelible makers for a definitive set of traits. Which is why screenwriters and directors spend countless hours debating every little detail about the character, right from the name (Phunsukh Wangdu in 3 Idiots) to how he laughs (remember The Jokera��s hysterical cackle?) to what she reads (Sharmila Tagore in Aradhana is spotted with the book When Eight Bells Toll) to what she wears (the Catwoman suit).
    Since we are name-ophiles, leta��s stick to the theme of movie character naming. When George Lucas was once asked about how he goes about it, he quipped that a name should telegraph what a character is about. For example: Han Solo, the captain of Millennium Falcon in Star Wars, is a lone-wolf by nature. His surname is indicative of his one-man-army thinking.
    Key character names are not randomly plucked from thin air. A lot of research goes into it. When Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar were hunting for a suitable name for the villain in Sholay, they opted for Gabbar Singh aka Gabru, a real life dacoit from the 50s who had a gruesome reputation of lining up 22 children and shooting them.
    Even while christening the baddie in Mr India, Javed Akhtar was seeking an African-ish sounding name that felt exotically evil. He rummaged through very many Hollywood titles before settling for a 1952 Clark Gable movie called Mogambo. Quentin Tarantino invests as much ingenuity on his minor characters. One of the diamond thieves in Reservoir Dogs is Mr Pink, ostensibly a nod to Pink Panther, the fictional diamond with a distinctive flaw that resembles a leaping panther.
    More often than not, the name choice is whimsical. Like in Forrest Gump, the protagonist Gump is named after a racist general just to serve as a reminder that a�?sometimes we all do thingsa��that make no sensea��. Whatever the source of inspiration, the big trick in naming characters is that the name should have some character.

    -Anantha Narayan


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