Apparently, it started with Daag - The Fire. Though the jury is still out why it was named so.
I mean, what is the connection between Daag and Fire? And the plot of the movie starring Sanjay Dutt, Chandrachur Singh and Mahima Chaudhry (in a double role, that too!)?
One extremely plausible theory is that the distributor wanted to name it Aag - The Fire. His high school-dropout flunky misread it!
But why the sub-title? That's the Prashna - The Question!
Well, it is quite simple actually.
The producer wants to make a film with Karishma Kapoor in the lead. They sign her. They shoot the film. They have the title song composed. Then, they go to get the title registered. And WHAM - they suddenly find out some other pesky fellow has got the damn name. The pesky fellow has no intention of making a film of that name. But he wants to make a quick buck by selling the title to the aforementioned producer.
Now, if Bollywood was corporatised, they would have paid the money and got hold of the title. Its a bloody small sum of money anyway.
But Bollywood is nothing if it is not stubborn. And resourceful! The producer tells the pesky fellow - "Keep the fu***** title. I am not going to pay one penny for a name like Baaz."
And goes ahead and gets another title registered.
The new title? Baaz - A Bird In Danger.
Why convolute matters? Can't we get a simple spelling change - and register the same title? Yes, you can... except for the small matter that the pesky fellow has registered ALL possible spelling combinations that remotely spell Baaz!
So, to get back to Daag - The Fire, it started off a trend like no other. Every frigging Hindi film (whether facing a similar problem or not) had a subtitle.
When Karan Johar asked, "Mere paas Amitabh hain, Jaya hain, Shah Rukh hain, Hrithik hain, Kajol hain, Kareena hain. Tumhare paas kya hain?", the small-time producer said, "Mere paas Maa - The Mother hain. Hrrmmph!"
The basic format of the hyphenated name is Hindi Name - The English Translation.
But there are variations...
* Hindi/English: Dhund - The Fog.
* English/Hindi: Double Cross - Ek Dhoka.
* English/Hinglish: Rules - Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula.
* English/English: Encounter - The Killing.
* Hindi/Unconnected: Aan - Men at Work.
* Hindi/Deep Meaningful Thought: Waqt - A Race Against Time.
It was such an epidemic that Nagesh Kukunoor spoofed it in Bollywood Calling. The film being shot in that film was Maut - The Death!
Let me end with a brilliant story which is a exemplifies the typical Bollywood resilience and resourcefulness.
A very long time ago, the flavour of the season was a con-man called Natwarlal. He was caught after a long cat-and-mouse game with the police and the stories of his exploits were reported gleefully by the media. Bollywood decided to make a movie on him. Actually, all of Bollywood wanted to make innumerable movies on him. The most prestigious of these was the one starring one Mr Amitabh Bachchan. (Incidentally, there isn't a shred of similarity between the original Natwarlal and the film but then, we are being pedantic now!)
The producer happily signed Amitabh and Rekha. Went to great locations. Got Amitabh to sing for the first time. Shot a fantastic song called Pardesiya. And all this, with a working title of Natwarlal.
Only when Mr Bachchan completed shooting and the distributors started to badger the producer for a release date, did he saunter across to do the paperwork. And lo behold, there was some other jerk had already registered the name!
No probs, thought our dynamic producer and promptly registered Mr Natwarlal as the title.
End of story? Perish the thought!
The other guy (one with the legal rights to Natwarlal) decided that his film would not stand a chance against the box-office Midas.
So he stirred the waters a bit and went to the Association of Film Producers of India - where he filed a complaint that there is actually no difference between Natwarlal and MR Natwarlal. I mean, what would Natwarlal be if he is not a Mr?
The august association pondered over this very cogent argument and ruled in favour of the other guy. That, Mr and Blank Natwarlals were actually the one and same. So would the producer register his film under a different name, please?
Delayed release. Mounting debts. Sleepless nights. Terrible ulcers. Where is an AK-47 when you need one?
Then came the solution which would have left all of Mr DeBono's six thinking hats in a tizzy!
Who is in the film? Amitabh Bachchan. (Right. Can't pretend Satyen Kappu is the star attraction!)
Who is he featured as? Mr Natwarlal.
So, our debonair & dashing producer went ahead and named his film - guess karo, guess karo - AMITABH BACHCHAN IN AND AS MR NATWARLAL!!!
The association ruled that Natwarlal and Mr Natwarlal might be the same but ABIAAMr Natwarlal is certainly a different animal!
So, when you see a poster with the aforementioned phrase on it, don't mistake it for an advertisement for Bachchan's charisma.
Check out the censor certificate (I did!) - it is an advertisement for a producer's (one Mr Tony) wheeling-dealing!
PS: Is the story true? Who cares...