In 2016 alone, Bollywood has seen more sequels than all of Vishesh Films’ (Bhatts) Murder 2/3s, Jism 2s and Raaz 2/3s put together. There was a recent cashing in on sex-comedies this year, with Great Grand Masti and Kya Super Kool Hai Hum leading the vulgar way before Housefull 3 unleashed itself upon us with its all-star theme of inane, juvenile overpopulation.
While it has worked well for our Western counterparts, and the ideology has been the same behind simply cashing in on initial success, it’s hard to carry on a franchise here unless it’s a genre film. It’s not only about good content – because that is very subjective here – but there’s an inherent laziness about this era about wanting to rest on something original instead of creating something original.
For a better understanding of this epidemic, here are four common varieties of film sequels in contemporary cinema:
The “2” Lazy Variety
Jaws 2, Taken 2, Force 2, Kahaani 2, Rock On 2, Don 2 – all equally unimaginatively titled, with a simple numerical meant to convey continuity in franchise and vague theme, instead of story/plot. But then that has been Hollywood’s franchise way for years, too, with the same protagonists being dropped into new situations and adventures in the sequels. Very few films now actually take forward the plot anymore or divide it into two parts of a whole, because not many viewers like being expected to watch an extra film in order to understand the context of the new one. Even the superhero franchises don’t quite depend on their origin films anymore, though it always helps to be acquainted with the action or mood by experiencing the entire series.
Films like the above mentioned ones at least retain the same protagonists to take the thread forward, much like life offering up new experiences for the same people. But titles like Hate Story 2/3, Tum Bin 2, and all the horror-erotica titles the Bhatts and the likes have been offering up simply take forward a generic theme – threesome thrillers, love triangles, supernatural erotica – without even retaining any familiar faces or even the crew. If we’re lucky, we get hints of the same background score to remind us of the success and sound of the predecessor. These films can stand alone on their own too, but the producers are insecure about their business, which is why they simply lend it the aura and name of a sequel to at least guarantee curiosity from a generation that may have liked/watched the first one. It’s no wonder that I still can’t distinguish the Sunny Leone-sex sequels from the Bipasha Basu-horror-sex sequels.
Sequels like Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive, the Munnabhai series and Ghayal Once Again take forward the spirit of their genres loyally, establishing their protagonists independently in the first film – which eventually requires viewing not for the plot, but for an understanding of their distinctness.
Each of them were trendsetters of sorts to begin with, which is why the idea of a sequel works as more of an extension of the universe they’ve created instead of a greedy financial decision to bring in easy revenue. It requires a certain kind of skill to keep alive a cult, with common faces repeating from previous installments, at the same time respecting the change in generations and times we live in.
The Spiritual Sequels
If you think about it, each of Imtiaz Ali’s films can be compiled into a coming-of-age-travel franchise, while every YRF and Dharma rom-com that insists on referencing its own past tunes, stars and success (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is the spiritual “mature” sequel of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, with all the hints thrown in).
None of these filmmakers can get enough of the same thing – and they do it well, and better than most others, which is why they’re renowned and famous in their own ways. But there is, again, a lack of originality or a stubbornness to stick to a comfort zone – which is where virtues like versatility take a hit in this industry. A certain “kind” of cinema comes to your head when these directors are mentioned, which, in itself, is the whole idea of a franchise – the identicalness and faithfulness to one voice and one vision.
The Real Sequels
Think about Baahubali and its upcoming sequel, Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2 or the Godfather series or many fantasy/sci-fi franchises (The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix), where one film can’t be imagined without the integration and existence of the others. The universes created are built upon further and taken forward, either through characters or real time – more like a whole divided into parts instead of portions just being added to one portion. It keeps alive the intrigue and aura created in the origin films, and operates in ongoing generations of the same family-verse, and can only be recalled and imagined in its entirety.
Though, for rating purposes, each part is compared to each other (the first two parts of Godfather are at different positions in the IMDB Top 10). This is perhaps the purest definition of what a traditional sequel is supposed to be, and also the most difficult to conceptualize and execute over a period of time.