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Second act- After movies, plays go the sequel way

Several sequels to plays have been staged in the city over the past few months; we find out if the concept of a franchise works in the theatre circuit.

art and culture Updated: Aug 03, 2015 19:13 IST
Arundhati Chatterjee
Arundhati Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Sequels to plays,Theatre,Mumbai theatre

In 2010, theatre director Rahul DaCunha’s play, One On One, was staged in the city. An instant hit, it continues to open to full houses even today. On August 1, DaCunha’s theatre company, Rage, staged One On One 2 –– a sequel to the popular act –– with a bunch of new actors and directors. The drama is a collection of nine short plays, and is more contemporary in its themes than its precursor.

“We’ve been talking about it for a long time. It’s not a true sequel in the sense that we are not taking the story ahead. But yes, we are carrying forward the same format. We had to make a second part, as times have changed. India is different in 2015 from what it was in 2003,” he explains.

This isn’t the first sequel of this kind though. The city’s theatre scape has seen several sequels or franchises across languages in the past few months. In June, Meherzad Patel’s The Class Act returned with a second part. Earlier this year, Salim Arif’s historical satire, Taj Mahal Ka Tender, got a sequel in Taj Mahal Ka Udghatan. One of his older plays, Tumhari Amrita, also had a continuation story titled Aapki Soniya. On the other hand, Manhar Gadhia’s popular Gujarati drama, 7 x 3 = 21, also got a sequel in 7 x 3 = 21: Part 2. In fact, Gadhia also staged an extension of the same franchise, by putting together the best monologues from each play.

Brand value

Directors believe that if a play has been running successfully for a few years, a sequel creates interest, since people feel that they know what to expect of it. "They come with a certain brand equity in mind, which, in turn, creates pre-release expectations among the audience," says Arif, adding, "A second part also saves the producer-director the trouble of explaining the genre, and the intention of the play. The audience, too, is more in tune with the content."

A still from Salim Arif's Taj Mahal ka Udghatan (left), Anu Menon in still from Rahul DaCunha's One on One.

But sometimes, retaining the same name or theme backfires. Take for instance, Naseeruddin Shah’s play, Ismat Apa Ke Naam, which was followed by Ismat Apa Ke Naam – 2 (later changed to Kambakht Bilkul Aurat). Explaining how the name led to misconceptions, he says, “It was not a sequel, but a continuation of our Storytelling On Stage series. I should not have called it ‘part 2’ because everyone said they’d seen it, when, in fact, they had seen only the first one. That also says something about the attentiveness quotient of the audience.”

Content is king

More often than not, the common factor linking a sequel and the original is the genre or the format. Generally, the story does not begin from where the first instalment ends. And an earlier success does not warrant the sequel’s popularity. “Class Act 2 was a new play, albeit with the same characters. It had a great run as a standalone comedy show as well. To be honest, the original generally does more business, and is more popular, be it in theatre, books or films. We were lucky that people found our second play as funny as the first one,” says Patel.

DaCunha echoes a similar thought. “A sequel should always be a step forward, and richer in content. That’s the only way it will stand the test of time,” he says.

Success rate

However, there are many theatre practitioners who don’t really believe in this concept. Shah says, “I am not grabbed by sequels, and I wouldn’t ever attempt one in a play. ‘Franchise’ is an unknown word for the kind of theatre Motley (Shah’s theatre company) does.”

Talking about the challenges of the concept, Patel adds, “It isn’t easy to sustain the trend because, in movies, if you haven’t watched the first part, you can hire a DVD and watch it. But with theatre, it is difficult. If you have not watched the first part, you won’t watch a sequel unless the play is disconnected.”

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First Published: Aug 03, 2015 19:01 IST