The pain and power of multiples

With as many as 14 Bollywood franchise films seeing the light of the day in 2016, we decode the phenomenon

The guitar-strapped, leather jacket-clad youngsters in Rock On!! (2008) returned to the silver screen this Friday as 40-year-olds in Rock On 2, the second edition of their famed musical extravaganza. This sequel is just one of the 14 franchise films releasing in 2016, with four big second instalments hitting the big screen in November and December alone.

Force 2, which places John Abraham’s ACP Yashvardhan in a new terrain, will release alongside Tum Bin 2, the second edition of the 2001 musical love story which cashed in on the audience’s tears at the turn of the millennium. Rounding off the year of franchise films on December 2 is Kahaani 2, bringing back Vidya Balan.

The genre game

Kicking off the year of franchise films in January was sex comedy Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3, while July saw the release of its sleazy cousin Great Grand Masti. The third instalments in their respective franchises, both were unable to set the cash counters ringing. Another comedy sequel, Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive, couldn’t make a dent in the box office collections either. But then there was Housefull 3, which did cross the Rs. 100-crore mark.

Despite the indifferent strike rate, comedies seem to be the most favoured genre to return to. “They are in a more mainstream genre, more relatable to commercial cinema. If comedy movies do well over a span of a year, it’s a smart move to increase the bandwidth,” says Amul Mohan, trade expert and editor-in-chief of Super Cinema.

Other popular genres among franchises this year have been horror and action, with releases like Raaz: Reboot, 1920: London, Jai Gangaajal, Ghayal Once Again, Teraa Suroor and Force 2. But Shailesh Kapoor, founder of Ormax Media, an insights firm specialising in media, believes genre has little to do with the making of franchise films in Bollywood. “One of the key elements of a franchise’s success is the popularity of its characters,” he says. “The Munna Bhai franchise, while only two films old, is an example of that.”

The discontinued saga

Much like the formula for success, there is no blueprint for developing franchise films in Bollywood. While films like Force 2 and Rock On 2 parachute their characters in a new situation, movies like Tum Bin 2 and Kahaani 2 have nothing but a theme in common with their antecedent. Capitalising on the title, some franchisees simply use the name and tell a different story with entirely new characters. Then there are those that ride heavily on its actors, and in the case of Messenger of God series, its multifaceted spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

“The Murder franchise, for example, stands for Emraan Hashmi, the suspense-thriller genre, adult scenes and good music,” observes Kapoor. “In Murder 3, the cast was changed and the adult scenes went missing, and the film didn’t work.”

Similarly, taking neither the story nor the characters forward, the directors of Kahaani 2 and Tum Bin 2 prefer to call their original films a ‘genre’. “Kahaani should be synonymous with good content,” says Sujoy Ghosh, director of the Kahaani 2, adding that the film could be titled anything else and it would still stand as an independent film. According to Ghosh, the aim is to make a brand of films that tell a convincing story. So would the franchise at least be in the realm of thrillers? “Not necessarily,” says Ghosh. “It just has to be good content.”

But the director of Tum Bin 2, Anubhav Sinha, is more firm with the boundaries of his franchise. He describes Tum Bin as an “intense romance which everybody aspires for, but very few find”. After getting active on social media five years ago, Sinha discovered that romantic drama could be explored as a “franchise-able property”, and came up with the idea of making a sequel.

As assured as Sinha is about having a repeat audience, his focus is on millennials who were children when Tum Bin hit the big screen. “When they were growing up, they heard the music of the film and that’s what drove them to watch the original,” says the director, hoping that the sequel is lucrative enough to draw them to the theatres.

Clashing with Tum Bin 2 this Friday is Force 2, a film that will see John Abraham as ACP Yashvardhan battle newer, if not stronger, antagonists. “The villain dies at the end of the first one, and being a cop, the protagonist goes on a new journey with this one,” says producer Vipul Shah, who has another sequel, Commando 2, slated for January 2017.

Despite both of Shah’s sequels belonging to the action genre, he believes franchise films work only if there is a story to tell, irrespective of a category. So why call it a sequel if the story could stand independently? “Sequels always have the advantage of marketing. They don’t have the advantage of creativity,” he says.

Marketing Matters

Irrespective of a character, story, or of the audience’s interest, filmmakers opt to dish out a sequel to cash in on the commercial success of the original. “You will not see movies that tanked at the box office made into sequels,” says Mohan before correcting himself. “There have been exceptions, but not largely.”

Riding on the success of a franchise can be a double-edged sword. While the process of marketing a sequel is easier with an established brand name, there is a looming threat of newer audiences distancing themselves from a franchise. “Sequels have to be self-explanatory,” says Shah. “If there is a connection, you have to write it in a way that people understand the first film too.”

But according to Kapoor, the problem arises when the franchise name is attached to a new film and there is a mismatch of what the series stood for and what arrives with the new feature. He is, however, optimistic about the rising trend of making franchise films in Bollywood. “If made with the right brand understanding of what the franchise should offer, such films are a much safer bet than standalone films,” he says.

Whether or not Bollywood is handling the franchise game tactfully, with 14 releases this year alone, they sure are going all in, anticipating a royal flush like in the Ocean’s trilogy.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:14:40 AM |

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