Salman Khan-starrer Tiger Zinda Hai, which opened to Rs115 crore last weekend, is the last of the umpteen sequels and franchise films Bollywood has spawned in 2017. The second instalment to Kabir Khan’s 2012 hit Ek Tha Tiger follows early December release Fukrey Returns, which minted Rs73 crore in domestic box office collections at last count.
Along with Judwaa 2, Badrinath Ki Dulhania and the biggest of them all, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, it has truly been the year of franchise films, a trend that has caught on in the Hindi film industry, especially in the last two years.
About 70 Hindi films released since 2008 have been sequels and parts of larger franchises. The number has gone up from six in 2015 to 12 in 2016 to 15 in 2017. With seven, six and four franchise films to their credit, respectively, in these 10 years, producers Vishesh Films, T-Series and Vikram Bhatt spearhead the sequel bandwagon.
“Of course there are some definite advantages (to a sequel over a regular feature film),” said Shobu Yarlagadda, co-founder and chief executive officer at Arka Mediaworks, the producer of Baahubali. “There is a world established and there is a certain following for it. Any production house or studio will try to exploit it. Like Baahubali: The Beginning had introduced audiences to a universe, so by the time Baahubali 2 came, the marketing of that story was easier. If we were to make Baahubali 3 today, it would be quite smooth. With a new film, you have to establish everything from scratch. Here, a lot of the audience is already tuned in, has watched and possibly liked the first part.”
While Yarlagadda believes many of these franchises tend to develop into large event films (Baahubali has been preceded by massive action franchises like Krrish and Dhoom in India), attracting people to theatres, film critic Baradwaj Rangan points out to the noteworthy success of smaller projects like Fukrey Returns and Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2.
“What we’re now seeing is that even the smaller properties can succeed and lead to sequels because of certain inherent characteristics,” Rangan said. For example, in Tamil cinema, family drama Pasanga (2009) spawned a sequel called Pasanga 2 (2015) six years later, without repeating the original cast, but the title alone generated a lot of interest.
“Movies are bombing left, right and centre and the audience footfalls are decreasing like crazy. So how do we bring people to theatres?” Rangan said, adding that if you come up with something original, people will always wonder whether it’s worth the time and money or not. “90% of the audience wants guaranteed entertainment and a sequel promises just that. And if you combine it with a big star and a big holiday, it really hits the roof and there’s nothing you can do about it. The quality of the film is almost irrelevant,” he said.
Adopted from a model established in Hollywood, Rangan said, a sequel may either be a continuation of a specific story or keeping with the spirit of a certain defined universe. Either way, there are no surprises for the audience, they know what they are in for.
Success, of course, is no guarantee and the numbers speak for themselves. Of the 70 films in the past decade, 34 have made profits—from Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster Returns (Rs21 crore) to Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (Rs260 crore). But there have also been disasters like Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai Dobaara (it lost Rs42 crore) and Julie 2 (which lost Rs28 crore).
“The fan-filmmaker connection has become more interactive so it’s easier to know what people want to now,” said Fukrey director Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, adding that the fact that sequels have become a business trend now is evident in the number of films already announced for the next year. From Salman Khan taking over Race 3 to Rajinikanth’s take in 2.0, there is much to look forward to.
“The film will open well at the most. But unless it’s really good, because of social media, you’ll see a drop Saturday onwards. And people will not take it lightly, the backlash will be that much worse,” Lamba said.