The Last Samurai, Taranaki Maunga and Mangaluru

Question : Do you recognize this mountain? Name and location please..

Yes, it’s the same one in the backdrop of the legendary movie – The Last Samurai. This is supposed to be Mount Fuji where Tom Cruise and other ancient Japanese’s warrior tribes fought their last battle and perish.

However what you are looking at is not Fuji, It’s Mount Taranaki! In fact, It’s not even in Japan. This is located thousands of miles away, in middle earth. I am not kidding, it’s apparently true. A mountain played Body-double for another mountain for its striking resemblance with other. I wonder what did Hollywood show as body-double for the Himalayas? Mongolia?

Like any mountain, Mount Taranaki has a history, let me cover the “its name” part of it. The indigenous native Māori people had called it as Taranaki for centuries. When European explorers came down, their first natural instinct was to rename it. They named it Mount Egmont. Then the colonizers arrived, and unsurprising stuff followed. They claimed the country with the cunning use of Flag . As usual practice a lot of things were formally renamed, including Taranaki – as Mount Egmont.

For about a century it is called by both names in official records. Let me fast forward the story to the current century. Almost a year back, authorities and legislators finally resolved to have one and only one name for the mountain. It’s now called Taranaki Maunga. So well done there. It’s a sentiment that matters, and I fully agree with them. Why should anyone call themselves or places with a name their colonisers or comfortable to pronounce with? It should always reflect the roots.

However, a section of society finds this kin of renaming very hard to swallow. To this date, some people prefer to call themselves as they are from Bombay. It’s the name their colonizers gave while breaking fingers of their cotton Weaver’s. In comparison, Chennai has caught on better. I hear no one is calling it Madras any more. Prayag for previous Allahabad is yet to catch up, I wonder what Amitabh Bacchan answers now if you were to ask about his roots. It’s all about the collective self-respect of locals.

Anyways, the thumb rule is a name that should be devised by local. There could even be multiple names as long as they all are all local. I have seen numerous local names co-existing. For example, let’s take a city of Mangaluru, it has/had at least 13 titles – mostly regional. FYI only, Mangaluru has very diverse cultural deviation, perhaps next only to Northeastern states.

  • Mangaluru in Kannada, the state language and language of education
  • Kodial in Konkani, a language spoken by Saraswats and Catholics refugees emigrated from Goa to avoid Portuguese persecution and Inquisition. A language is closer to Marathi than Kannada.
  • Kudla in Tulu, mother tongue of Aishwarya Rai and Shila Shetty. A local transactional language. Widely spoken in the region, but has no script. Vocabulary is closer to Tamizh than Kannada.
  • Kodeyaala in Havyakka, a dialect of Kannada sounds very poetic and closer to medieval Classic.
  • Its Maikala in Beary, a language spoken by local Muslims, which is closer to Malayalam than Kannada.
  • Its Mangalapuram in Malayalam, Keralites who share a border with Mangaluru.
  • Its called Kaudal in Urdu

Historic references. These names faded away due to its number of speakers reduced in the region.

  • Manjarun in (Samskrut) Sanskrit exists only in books
  • Nitra (Greek Ptolemy – based on the river Netravati)’
  • Manjarour/Manjiloree (Arabic), traders named it.

Finally, Let’s come to two names given by Colonisers/invaders :

Mangalore in English. This is no longer a standard spelling.

Jalalabad – Tippu Sultan, temporarily renamed it – this did not get caught on.

P.S. The producers of The Last Samurai may have their own reasons to shoot a Japanese Legend in New Zealand. Bollywood does it too. It did shoot most of its 80s and 90s dance sequences in Europe, mostly Switzerland. They did this even when Kashmir was peaceful primarily, and Insurgency did not start.

P.S.2 Hollywood gets the ethnicity of actors wrong as well. More often than not, an Indian character role is fulfilled by an English actor with a Pakistani or Srilankan descent. I have seen vice-versa as well. For example, the Arab princess jasmine in the movie Aladdin (2019 – Disney) was half Indian Naomi Scott.! The protagonist was played by Egyptian-Canadian and Genie was played by African-American. To remind you, the story was about Arabian nights in 14th century Iraq. Its a discussion for another day

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