Aamir Khan, known over years to be over-careful when signing films, finally agreed to play anti-hero in Yash Raj’s Dhoom 3 earlier this week. Suddenly, the hype around the action-thriller franchise hit a crescendo in the movie trade. More deals will be struck soon.
Although it took producer Aditya Chopra five years to come up with the third Dhoom installment, recent months have seen announcements for sequels to practically every second commercially successful film: No Entry, Partner, Wanted, Dabangg, even Yamla Pagla Deewana and Kya Kool Hai Hum. The only popular instance of a sequel in Hindi cinema from the past was Nagina (1986) that got extended to Nigahen three years after. This thread is common in Hollywood, which is set to release over two dozen installments of franchise films in 2011.
Director Rohit Shetty says the idea of attempting sequels has gained serious ground, at least so far as the business is concerned. Having directed three hit Golmaal films, he should know. “It’s about following a business trend. Besides, the audience already shares a bond with the film,” he asserts.
Ritesh Sidhwani, producer of the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Don 2 however adds, every hit can’t spin off a sequel: “You have to have something about the character to take it further, and of course, the script has to be plausible.” For instance, he says, “If we had not made Vardhan the villain, and Shah Rukh Khan’s Don hadn’t bumped off his look-alike Vijay, then evil would not have survived to take the story forward. Even though Don remains alive (in the first part), people have accepted him. And despite being bad, Don is cool.” Veteran film distributor Ramesh Sippy, on the other hand, says, “Most filmmakers announce sequels without realising that the story has ended. While a comedy like Golmaal can get away with additional characters, it can’t go on with films such as Sarkar, which ended with Sarkar Raj.” Incidentally producer Ekta Kapoor wants to bring back Ajay Devgn in Once Upon A Time In Mumbai 2, though Devgn’s character dies in the first part!
Sippy believes most sequel announcements are signs of desperation: “You can’t turn a mediocre film into a brand or franchise. Frequency of sequels is important to keep the curiosity alive. Yash Raj took really long to announce Dhoom 3, and Rakesh Roshan’s Krissh 2 is too coming up after a long gap.”
Argue with filmmakers if making sequels hints at a dearth of original ideas, and Sajid Nadiadwala, producer of Housefull 2, is up for a spirited defense. “If cashing in on a film’s success was reason enough, I would have made franchises out of Judwaa and Heyy Babyy. But I knew their stories had finished. Housefull is Akshay Kumar’s biggest hit and the script has potential to place the same characters into a new storyline.”
Shetty, who took a year each to write Golmaal 2 and 3, says it’s more difficult to write a sequel than a fresh script. “I have to live up to the expectations of the first hit, creatively and commercially.”There’s still skepticism whether Bollywood will be able to successfully establish franchises like Hollywood does. Sanjeev Lamba CEO, Reliance Big Pictures, observes, "The west has been good at it because their films are based on existing material, like comic books (Superman, Spiderman, Batman), novels (Harry Potter, Twilight)... We stand apart, because we are building franchises from hits like Dhoom, Golmaal, Munnabhai etc. If you make films with the right intentions, then after the second-third installment, you can figure out how long you can sustain a given brand."
The other key differentiator is that Hollywood depends less on an actor’s star power. Siddharth Roy Kapoor, CEO, UTV Motion Pictures, is in favour of investing in ‘concept movies’ instead. “In 2010, seven out of ten franchise Hollywood movies didn’t have huge stars, whether it is Harry Potter or Avatar. We are right now at a stage of building brands and franchises out of films that have been accepted by the box-office in a given year. The next step should be to put money into high content films that can be made into sequels, so that we can generate double and triple returns.”
Try telling that to an audience, which is used to seeing Sanjay Dutt as Munnabhai, Shah Rukh Khan as Don and Ajay Devgn leading his Golmaal gang.